Movement and dispersal of a habitat specialist in human-dominated landscapes: a case study of the red panda

Bista, Damber and Baxter, Greg S. and Hudson, Nicholas J. and Lama, Sonam Tashi and Weerman, Janno and Murray, Peter John ORCID: (2021) Movement and dispersal of a habitat specialist in human-dominated landscapes: a case study of the red panda. Movement Ecology, 9:62. pp. 1-15.

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Background: Habitat specialists living in human-dominated landscapes are likely to be affected by habitat fragmentation and human disturbances more than generalists. But there is a paucity of information on their response to such factors. We examined the effect of these factors on movement patterns of red pandas Ailurus fulgens, a habitat and diet specialist that inhabits the eastern Himalaya.

Methods: We equipped 10 red pandas (six females, four males) with GPS collars and monitored them from September 2019 to March 2020 in Ilam, eastern Nepal. We collected habitat and disturbance data over four seasons. We considered geophysical covariates, anthropogenic factors and habitat fragmentation metrics, and employed linear-mixed models and logistic regression to evaluate the effect of those variables on movement patterns.

Results: The median daily distance travelled by red pandas was 756 m. Males travelled nearly 1.5 times further than females (605 m). Males and sub-adults travelled more in the mating season while females showed no seasonal variation for their daily distance coverage. Red pandas were relatively more active during dawn and morning than the rest of the day, and they exhibited seasonal variation in distance coverage on the diel cycle. Both males and females appeared to be more active in the cub-rearing season, yet males were more active in the dawn in the birthing season. Two sub-adult females dispersed an average of 21 km starting their dispersal with the onset of the new moon following the winter solstice. The single subadult male did not disperse. Red pandas avoided roads, small-habitat patches and large unsuitable areas between habitat patches. Where connected habitat with high forest cover was scarce the animals moved more directly than when habitat was abundant.

Conclusions: Our study indicates that this habitat specialist is vulnerable to human disturbances and habitat fragmentation. Habitat restoration through improving functional connectivity may be necessary to secure the long-term conservation of specialist species in a human-dominated landscape. Regulation of human activities should go in parallel to minimize disturbances during biologically crucial life phases. We recommend habitat zonation to limit human activities and avoid disturbances, especially livestock herding and road construction in core areas.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2021. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Sciences (6 Sep 2019 - 31 Dec 2021)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Institute for Life Sciences and the Environment - Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems (1 Aug 2018 -)
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2021 02:55
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2021 03:55
Uncontrolled Keywords: activity pattern, female-biased dispersal, fragmentation effect, GPS telemetry, human disturbances, road effect
Fields of Research (2008): 05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management
Fields of Research (2020): 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960509 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Mountain and High Country Environments
D Environment > 96 Environment > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960810 Mountain and High Country Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180601 Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180606 Terrestrial biodiversity
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180603 Evaluation, allocation, and impacts of land use
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