Mai-pokhari area is special for its artisan teas and red panda. The other fact is that the 99 percent of the world does not know that there is red panda.

Red Panda, also known as Hābre in eastern Nepal, is a native animal of south-east Asia. The red panda habitat in Nepal lies in the east hill region at altitudes between 2,200 and 4,800 meters above sea level. Although carnivorous, this animal heavily relies on a herbivorous diet such as tender bamboo shoots and tall tree leaves. But with the ever-growing human population and deforestation, the survival of these beautiful specie has become a pressing concern for decades, with their favourite source of food; bamboo forest degenerating, creating an ecological gap consequently pushing them on the brink.

There are many Hābre stories and folklores shared among locals of the eastern hills of Nepal. They used to peek-a-boo on our kitchen roof back in the old days. Where have they gone? Surely, modernisation is a double-edged sword if we’re not mindful.

In the picture
Man Kumar Mukhiya, the producer of Mai-Pokhari Tea Factory.

It takes a bit of rare luck to have a sight of this shy-natured specie.

There is so much going on into it from the community level to international organisations in the recent years to save this specie. Mai-Pokhari area in Ilam is a heritage-listed site for the Red Panda conservation program led by the Nepal government and UNESCO, a meaningful effort to stop defragmentation. They must live together in a cluster again to grow and sustain themselves. And then there are other Red Panda networks bringing awareness which has helped a lot in fighting against the worse enemy called poaching. The light at the end of the tunnel that we can see is the relentless efforts being made by the communities and activists on reforestation program to restore the habitat – to restore the essential wild.

There are approximately 10,000 Red Pandas in the world (their home, Southeast Asia), and only about 1000 are the residents of Nepal.

There is so much into it. The things mentioned here merely touch the surface. Going on full length will be here for episodes but surely we will be back with more Hābre stories.

– Sumni H. Rai

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