Darjeeling: A step by step approach has been adopted for the conservation of red pandas. Reintroducing zoo bred pandas in the wild is the main objective of this. As a step in this direction a workshop titled “Red Panda Global Species Management Plan was flagged off in Darjeeling.”We are working towards releasing four captive-bred red pandas in the Singhalila National Park in September or October this year,” said Vinod Kumar Yadav, member secretary, West Bengal Zoo Authority and Additional Principal Conservator of Forests, Government of West Bengal. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaPreparations are on for this. “We have already submitted plans for this to the Government of India. Genetic studies; DNA finger printing, habitat evaluation, including satellite mapping, drone images are being combined for this project,” said Yadav. The red pandas will first be released in a special enclosure in Gairibas following which they will be released in the wild. “The conservation programme is a step by step approach. Last year we had a national level workshop involving the Central Zoo Authority and the states like West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarkhand. The national workshop paved way to this four-day long global programme which is now being held in Darjeeling. After we successfully introduce red pandas in the Singhalila National Park our next goal will be to introduce them in Neora Valley. This is how we plan to augment the panda population in the wild,” added Yadav. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highwayA 17 crore programme for 10 years named Special Survival Plan is underway. The expansion of the special breeding facility at Tobgaydanra, Darjeeling is also covered under this programme. In order to introduce fresh blood lines in the captive breeding programme in the Darjeeling zoo, red pandas will be brought in from foreign countries including Australia. The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (PNHZP) popular as the Darjeeling Zoo, is the coordinating zoo for the red panda breeding programme (Project Red Panda) in India. The project was initiated in 1990. At present there are 13 female and 8 male red pandas. In 1999, a pair of zoo bred red pandas — Minnie and Sweetie — were released in the forests of Gairibans below Sandakphu. Again in September 2004 another pair Neelam and Dolma were released in the wild in September 2004. Later Sweetie was found to have given birth to a cub in the hollow of an oak tree, thereby bringing the Project Red Panda to a full circle. A red panda census had been launched in 2018. “The census is being conducted in two parts. We have physically identified the red pandas individually, found their nests. In the other part genetic analysis is being done from the scat of red pandas. In this way we will come out with the red panda population” stated Ravi kant Sinha, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife.) Representatives including experts from USA, Holland, Australia, Hungary, Singapore and Nepal are attending the 4 day long conference in Darjeeling.