Red pandas rescued in Laos stir fears over exotic pet trade

A handout from NGO Free The Bears shows one of three red pandas at the Free The Bears sanctuary after being confiscated from wildlife traffickers, in the Laos city of Luang Prabang. (Free The Bears via AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
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Red pandas rescued in Laos stir fears over exotic pet trade

BANGKOK: The rescue in Laos of three endangered red pandas trafficked from China has raised fears the rare animals are increasingly being coveted by exotic pet owners.
Landlocked Laos, which borders China and Vietnam, is a key transit hub in the global trade in illegal wildlife, but experts say the discovery of red pandas there is virtually unheard of.
Six of the cat-sized bears were found on January 12 inside northern Laos during a random stop of a van traveling from China, one of their few remaining habitats.
Three died later after the rough journey but the remaining three were sent to a sanctuary run by the Free the Bears NGO in the northern tourist town of Luang Prabang, where they are recovering well.
“They have already made it through their initial two week quarantine period which has allowed us to move them to larger cages where they have more room to climb,” Rod Mabin, regional communications director with Free the Bears, said.
The group shared recent footage of the ring-tailed red pandas munching on leaves and eating fresh fruit while occasionally staring up in apparent puzzlement at the camera.
With habitats under threat in the Eastern Himalayas and China, red pandas are considered endangered and highly vulnerable to infectious diseases.
But their copper fur, cute appearance and small size also make them easy candidates for the exotic pet trade.
According to an assessment from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the interest in red pandas as pets may have grown partly in response to the increasing number of “cute” images of the animals shared on social media.
“This is a very unusual confiscation as red pandas had never before been seen in Laos,” Mabin said. “The most likely explanation is that the animals were destined for either a private zoo or the exotic pet trade.”
The animals are also targeted for their fur.
Ang Phuri Sherpa, Nepal country director for the Red Panda Network, said the mammals are difficult to find outside of their habitats in the dense bamboo forests across countries including Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Myanmar.
Citing a Laos media report, Sherpa said an initial investigation indicated they were being brought for the pet trade or on the way to Thailand, stressing the need for countries to exert “extra effort curbing [the] illegal trade.”
Discussions are ongoing over where the creatures will live once fully recovered.
“Whether that is at the sanctuary in Laos or in the wild in China is yet to be determined,” Free the Bears Mabin added.


Hero dog saves Indian family in flood-hit Kerala

Indian residents look at houses destroyed by flood waters at Kannappankundu in Kozhikode, in the Indian state of Kerala on August 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2018
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Hero dog saves Indian family in flood-hit Kerala

  • Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but the rains have been particularly severe this season
  • More than a million foreign tourists visited Kerala last year

NEW DELHI: A family in the flood-ravaged Indian state of Kerala narrowly escaped death after their pet dog woke them up moments before a landslide destroyed their home, local media reported Monday.
Mohanan P. and his family were sleeping at home in the mountainous Idukki district when their pet dog started barking raucously at around 3:00 am, waking the household.
“That’s when we realized something was wrong. I went out to see and we had to just rush out of the house,” Mohanan told Indian news network NDTV.
No sooner had the family rushed out when the landslide plowed down a nearby hill and demolished their home.
The family, dog in tow, have since moved to a government-run relief camp nearby.
Flash floods triggered by the annual monsoon rains have pounded the southern tourist hotspot in the past few days, killing 39 people and leaving 100,000 more homeless so far.