Bhutan being a small landlocked country, more than 70% of land is under forest coverage. Pristine natural heritage is the wealth of the country which the Royal Government of Bhutan pledges to maintain minimum of 60% for all time. Conservation of natural environment is one of the ways to achieve Gross National Happiness, emphasizing more than Gross Domestic Product. Development policies are made in Bhutan in accordance with the philosophy of Gross National Happiness ensuring ecological balanced sustainable development and green Bhutan.
One of the ancient names of Bhutan, ‘Menjong Yul’ rightly interprets the country as land of the medicinal herbs with rich in biodiversity. Bhutan has been treasuring the natural environment for centuries. Even in the 21st century, the inhabitants and natural heritage live intact in harmony, passing it on to future generations. High rugged mountains in the north extending all the way down to the southern foothill, rich in biodiversity makes Bhutan one of the top ten ‘Hotspots’ in the world.
Royal Government of Bhutan hosted the Second Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in association with the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative in October 2012, which the 13 tiger range countries attended. As many tigers losing their homes due to human effort in deforesting, Bhutan promised to preserve the natural environment for them. Tiger is affiliated even with Bhutanese legend and religion; four animals (Tak- Tiger, Seng – Lion, Chung – Garuda and Druk – Dragon). These are regarded as protectors of Buddhism.
Bhutan is also known as ecological paradise with wide range of flora and fauna; Takin, Tiger, rhododendron, orchids and blue poppy. These flowers and animals are found in the national parks and sanctuaries. Many of the trekking routes are in the national parks where one would get to see the flowers and if lucky enough even animals. About 26.23% of total forest area has been protected as national parks and wild life sanctuaries. The trekkers may not notice walking through one of the protected areas and biological corridors.
All the protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries are mainly managed by Ministry of Agriculture and Forest. Royal Society for Protection of Nature manages places for endangered bird species like Phobjikha Valley and Bumdeling for black necked cranes. Bhutan Trust Fund for Environment Conservation also looks after 16,000 square kilometers of protected areas. Most of the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are inter-connected, at least with biological corridors.
National Parks and Protected areas
Wangchuck Centenial Park is the largest protected area covering about 4914 square kilometers occupying prominent areas of Bumthang, Lhuntse and Wangdue Phodrang, ranging from 2500 meters to 4500 meters. The Park was established in 2008 commemorating 1oo years Wangchuck Dynasty since 1907. It has more than 100 species of birds and 23 large mammals, also accommodating Takin, wolf, Bengal tigers, common leopard, Himalayan black bear and snow leopard and many other animals.
Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park is the second largest park established in 1974 and named after His Majesty the third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck with an area of 4316 square kilometers. The park occupies whole Gasa County and parts of Punakha, Thimphu and Wangdue Phodrang provinces ranging elevation from 1400 to 7000 meters, sub tropical to alpine region. The park is home for 37 species of mammals including endangered ones; Takin, Clouded leopard, snow leopard, Indian leopard, musk deer, sambar, barking deer, red panda, Himalayan black bear, marmot, and many more.
Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park was formerly known as Black Mountains Natioinal Park was established in 1995, is the third largest park covering 1730 square meters in Trongsa, Sarpang, Wandue Phodrang and Zhemgang provinces. The park is located exactly in central Bhutan dividing east and west, connecting with Royal Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in the south. JSWNP has primeval forest making home for various types of animals; Bengal tiger, red panda, wild boar, Himalayan macaque, langur, clouded leopard, common leopard, yellow rump martin, black panther and many more.
Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in Bomdeling, Trashiyangtse district in eastern Bhutan covering 1520 square kilometers. It was established in 1998 with rich bio-diversity. The sanctuary is one of the Important Bird Area, supporting black necked crane ranging elevation from 1500 meters to 6000 meters.
Royal Manas National Park is the oldest national park in Bhutan covering Sarpang, Zhemgang and Pemagatshel provinces occupying 1054 square kilometers. The park is adjoined with four biological corridors; Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thriumshingla National Park and Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary, abutting Manas National Park in Assam, India. The only park accommodates one horned rhinoceros and wild water buffalo, with wide range of bird species.
Phrumsengla National Park, formally known as Thrumshingla, named after one of the highest motorable passes in central Bhutan covering Bumthang, Mongar, Lhuntse and Zhemgang districts with an area of 905 square kilometers. The park is comprised of fir forest, elevation ranging from 700 meters to 4400 meters. Several endangered bird species are found in this park; rufous-necked hornbill, beautiful nuthatch, satyr tragopan, chestnut-breasted partridge and few babblers.
Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary is named after a famous semi-nomads’ village called Sakteng, Trashigang in eastern Bhutan. Most part of the sanctuary is in Trashigang, covering 740 square kilomaters extending towards Samdrup Jongkhar in the southeast and bordering Arunachal Pradesh, India in the east. It is also a place of more than 130 species of orchids and 40 species of rhododendrons, inclusive of many other medicinal herbs. It renders home for 280 bird species and 37 mammal species.
Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve is located in western Bhutan occupying mostly Haa and Samtse districts with an area of 609 square kilometers. The reserve is of great importance with wide variety of ecosystem, comprising Takin, common leopard, Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, red panda, Himalayan black bear and many more.
Jomotsangkha Wildlife Sanctuary is the second smallest protected area in Kingdom of Bhutan located in Samdrup Jongkhar measuring 334 square kilometers, bordering with Khaling Reserve in Assam, India. The sanctuary is comprised of mainly the tropical wildlife in elevation ranging from 400 meters to 2200 meters. Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary is the smallest wildlife sanctuary in the Kingdom covering part of Sarpang and Dagana districts measuring 263 square kilometers. The elevation of the sanctuary ranges from 200 meters to 1600 meters. The PWS is famous for spotted deer and other tropical wildlife Royal Manas National Park.