ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Sustainable rangeland management to protect red panda and herder livelihoods (2016-2019)


Darwin Initiative Fund, $540,000

Research Theme

Sustainable Development


Dr Joanne Millar, Professor Max Finlayson &  Dr Karma Tenzing


Merak VillageThe research project aims to protect red panda habitat and livelihoods of yak herders in the high altitude rangelands of far eastern Bhutan. Partners include the Bhutan Departments of Livestock; Forests and Parks; World Wildlife Fund Bhutan; the Red Panda Network and Australian Landcare International.

Merak Village in Bhutan, Pic by J. Millar

The project has run for 3 years and is focussed on addressing severe land degradation, red panda habitat loss and herder wellbeing in the winter rangelands of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in remote eastern Bhutan (2,500 to 3,500m). Over-exploitation of resources and climate change are the main drivers of pasture decline, land erosion and forest fragmentation. SWS is rich in biodiversity and home to the globally threatened red panda. However, little is known about red panda status or habitat threats in this remote part of Bhutan.

Brokpa herderProject activities include fencing off several large gullies, planting native vegetation, monitoring habitat change, recording red panda populations, pasture trials, livestock management, biogas trials, vegetable production and women's enterprises. Group management and capacity building builds the foundation for herders to drive the process using lessons learnt from the landcare approach in Australia.

Brokpa herder wearing traditional deer fur clothing Pic J. Millar

To follow the progress of the project follow our blog


Red Panda Conservation Action Plan for Bhutan 2018-2023 pdf15MB

Darwin Initiative Main Project Half Year Report October 2016 pdf

Baseline Household Survey Report May 2017 pdf 2MB

Main project Annual Report April 2018 pdf 3MB

Project Half Year Report October 2018 pdf 1MB

Millar, J.Tenzing, K. (2019) Two steps forward, one step back: Enabling collective action to rehabilitate rangeland commons in Bhutan. Paper presented at the XVII International Association for Study of the Commons Conference Lima, Peru, July 2-5. pdf
Conference slides  pdf 2MB


Red PandaThe expected outcome of this project is the restoration and protection of red panda habitat and winter grazing areas through sustainable livestock and forest management leading to improved herder livelihoods.


Dr Joanne Millar



July 2019