Know all you need to know about the Red Panda
Some Red Panda information that participants may be interested to know before the start of the Expedition are, for one, the panda animal is a lazy creature that is most active from dusk to dawn, and is an Arboreal mammal (meaning it spends the majority of its life in trees). The Red Pandas eat, sleep and play in the tree canopy that helps them camouflage well, relaxing on tree branches during the day until late noon. Much smaller than the size of a giant panda (and not as closely related to the Giant pandas), these are also known as Lesser Panda or Shining Cat or Red Cat Bear.
The cute red panda (Ailurus fulgens) mainly survives in temperate forests at an altitude of anywhere between 2200 mtrs to 4800 mtrs with moderately cold temperature. The bamboo trees are the natural habitat of the red pandas and they mostly eat bamboo, berries, small mammals, insects and flowers, searching for food along the ground or hopping through the tree branches. The forepaws are used to collect food and place it into their mouths or they directly pick up food with their mouth. The red panda is incapable of digesting cellulose, and due to its low calorie diet, the solitary mammal indulges in very little physical movement beyond looking for food, and occasional whistling and twittering sounds. Their body activities include licking of their paws, and rubbing their back and belly against the tree canopy and occasional patrolling of their territory. So during the day until late afternoon before sunset, it rests on tree branches, either curled up covering its face with the tail during winters, or with its legs hanging down from the branch in warm weather. During dusk, it gets active and starts its search for food. Poor light makes it impossible to sight a panda in movement after sunset. The best time to spot it is during the day when it rests on the tree branches, with very little movement, unless provoked. However, due to its dwindling population owing to poaching, deforestation, loss of habitat and others, sighting a red panda out in the wild is a rare and cherished achievement.
The mysterious Red Pandas are found in five National Parks in India located in Sikkim, West Bengal, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Among them, the Singalila National Park in West Bengal has the highest density of Pandas as well as the highest numbers of Expeditions.
There are several clusters within the northern part of West Bengal where this Himalayan panda can be found, much of which lies within the Singalila National Park, which we cover during our Red Panda Expedition.
Singalila National Park, West Bengal
Once a Wildlife Sanctuary, turned into a National Park in 1992, Singalila NP is part of the Eastern Himalayas. The Singalila Ridge runs from North to South of the park, which has two ranges – the Rimbick range in the north and the Manebhanjan range in south. The two highest peaks of West Bengal – Sandakphu at 3630 mtrs above sea level and Phalut at 3600 mtrs above sea level are located on the Singalila ridge and within the National park. Four of the five highest mountain peaks are clearly visible on a clear day from the Park – Mount Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu, making it popular among trekkers and nature lovers. Two rivers Rammam and Sirikhola flow through the park.
Among the plantation, the common trees found in the Park are Bamboo, Rhododendron, Oak, Magnolia, Primula, Saxifraga, Geranium, Bistort, Senecio, among others. Himalayan Cobra Lilies (Arisaema) are found in abundance in Sandakphu (which explains its name mountain of the poisonous plants).
The animal kingdom is equally varied and the common mammals found here include the elusive Red Panda, Wild Boar, Leopard Cat, Pangolin, Barking Deer, Black Panther, Yellow-throated Marten, Himalayan Black Bear, Clouded Leopard, Serow, Takin and others.
The National Park boasts of a healthy habitat of many beautiful and rare endangered birds in India. More than 100 species of birds can be found in the Singalila Naitonal Park and its surrounding areas, and as such, this Expedition also promises glimpses of the some of the most exquisite birds in India. The common birds to be found here are Himalayan Monal, Hodgesons Frogmouth, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Long Billed Wren Babbler, Bar winged wren babbler, Blood Pheasant, Laughingthrush, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Satyr Tragopan, Black-throated Parrot bill, Himalayan Griffon, Slender billed Scimitar Babbler, White-winged Grosbeak, Golden Eagle, Robin Accentor, Rufous-breasted Bush Robin, Ibisbill, Spotted Nutcracker, Gold Naped Finch, Little Bunting, Plain-backed Thrush, Black-eared Shrike Babbler, Blue-capped Redstart, Steppe Eagle, White-throated Redstart, Eurasian Tree creeper, Buff-barred Warbler, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Alpine Accentor, Brown Accentor among others.
How to Reach the Singalila National Park
The nearest Railhead is the New Jalpaiguri Station, from where private as well as shared taxis are available until Manebhanjan. From Manebhanjan, one has to hire the Vintage Land Rover from the Highlanders Association.
The nearest Airport is the Bagdogra Airport, from where vehicles are available to drive to Manebhanjan.
Guests can also choose the Bus route from Kolkata to Siliguri and then avail cars to head to Manebhanjan.