Friday, May 18, 2012

Two-month old Takin calf rescued

Photo courtesy: Athinut Traiamoruvimarn AVI ICS MoAF
The Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) officials under the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) rescued Dawala, a two-month old Takin calf last Saturday from Tshachu area in Gasa. The rescued calf was brought to the Takin preserve in Motithang and is being tended to by the experts to ensure proper upbringing.
According to JDNP Park Manager, Phuntsho Thinley, the calf was found abandoned when they visited the Gasa hot spring for a field inspection of the on-going guest house construction. “The calf had crossed the Mochhu and was found straying in the hot spring area,” said the Park Manager adding that they looked for his mother and other herds nearby but “we could not find any.”
He assumed that the calf might have got displaced when the herd started fleeing coming from a predator’s attack.
The rescued calf after a night at JDNP office was translocated to the Motithang Takin Preserve. “When we first found him, he was weak and dehydrated. We fed him imported milk,” said Phuntsho Thinley.
After his arrival at the preserve last Sunday, the Wildlife Conservation Division of DoFPS devoted extra effort to ensure his survival. Kunzang Gyeltshen of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) said that the calf is being fed with boiled cow’s milk mixed with water. “Concentrated milk might result in diarrhea. Hence, we feed him a solution of three-fourths milk and one-fourth water.” The 250 – 300 ml solution is fed to the calf every three hours.
Officials are keeping close vigil on his health. Tending to the ticks in the body by applying flumectrin solution which supposedly is only a small problem, WRRC’s Kunzang Gyeltshen measured Dawala’s body temperature at 38.4 degree Celsius. “Such readings enable us to detect any abnormality if any and act upon it with appropriate medication.” Officials said that except for the stunting, which may result because the baby Takin might have missed colostrums, Dawala is sound and healthy. His live weight reads 20 kgs and he measures 2 feet 8 inches from the muzzle to tail while he is 1 foot 7inches tall. His chest girth measures 1foot inches.
WCD’s Chief Forestry Officer Sonam Wangchuk said that when Dawala is ready, he’ll be released back into the wild. “I’ve instructed the dealing officials to ensure that Dawala does not become too domesticated.” He also said that 25 of such wildlife species have been released back to forests as of last year.
Established in 1979, Motithang Takin preserve today is a ‘safe haven’ for 17 Takins – 10 males and seven females. Other wildlife species that are currently housed at the preserve are 11 Sambhars, two barking deer and one Goral. The preserve spans an area of 19.23 acres. However, officials also cited the lack of proper wildlife rehabilitation centre with required equipment as one of the hurdles in wildlife conservation. “The Motithang preserve is meant for only Takins but we’d to squeeze in other wild animals too.
As per JDNP Park manager, at this time of the year, Takins are migrating to the north towards their summer habitat at Tsharijathang from their winter habitat in the lower altitudes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tracing the footsteps of cordyceps collectors

Spring is a season of opportunities for Bhutanese nomads living in the northern fringes of the country.
But the opportunities are hard-earned.
Cordyceps (“Yatsagunbub”) collectors don’t have it easy when they go looking for the “fungus-worm” but then they are not ones to give up easily.
Preparation is done many days in advance before venturing out into the hostile, cold mountains. The nomads have to ensure that all the basic commodities that they need to survive in the mountain environment are ready.
Their baggage includes tents, warm woolen clothing and food. Since it is not sensible to pack normal food, they make do with fast food such as ‘flour dough.’ “Water is all you need to make dough,” said Pem Dechay, a regular cordyceps collector.
After the horses are loaded, the collectors travel in groups resting every once in a while. Hot tea along the way helps ease travel fatigue caused by the thin mountain air. The path they tread is so narrow that a misstep will send them plunging down the mountain edges.
It takes days to reach the collection site since they are nowhere near any human settlements.   Even as the cordyceps hunters climb further up, the temperature gets chillier and the path narrower and riskier to tread.
It is only towards the fourth or fifth day that they reach their destination.
The first thing they have to do now is set up a base camp. The tents are pitched. It is early in the morning; the harsh climate is relentless but this is not going to deter them.  After sipping a hot cup of tea, each walks for one to two hours from the campsite and gets down to work. Once in the collection zone, the nomads  turn into animals  crouching on all four limbs. Each of them starts combing through the grasses and other plants. Soon, the place is swarming with people.
Like a pack of monkeys digging for earthworms, the cordyceps collectors leave no area unexplored. Every clump of grass is shredded literally leaving no area for the worms to hide. They proceed in particular directions, covering vast areas in a single day. But even after spending about six hours on knees and hands, the unluckier ones are hardly a few worms richer while those whom luck favors manages to make a tiny collection. But it is only the first day and they cannot afford to feel dejected. Maybe tomorrow, the tides might turn.
When one finally sights a cordyceps , he or she carefully digs out the whole thing making sure that he or she does not separate the caterpillar from  the fungus. The tool used is a small twig usually made of bamboo. Each collection is safely put inside a noodles plastic wrapper.
The next day as luck would have it, there is a snowfall which carpets the whole ground.  Their quest is momentarily halted but slowly the snow melts. Nobody wants to lose time so everyone heads out again. Every new day, the nomads on mission have to travel farther looking for new grounds.  Their work takes them almost till the base of Gangkhar Phuensum and other towering mountains. The temperature drops even lower. But what keeps them going is the sight of the noodles wrapper slowly filling up with the worms.
Everyday, it is usually half past four in the evening when they return to their base camp. But now, they have to sit inside the tent and start cleaning the cordyceps until dusk. The day’s collections are dried the following day while they are on the mission to collect some more fresh cordyceps. This process of collection, cleaning and drying will continue until mid-June.
“In five days of literal hunting for the worms, I could manage only 100 pieces,” said Aum Om of Laya gewog in Gasa, “Last year I collected almost four times the number in the same period of time. This year the yield is unusually low.”
Before they head north towards the ice-capped mountains, they have to avail a government permit (GPT) for which each pays a nominal fee of Nu 260.  In one season, maximum permits for three members of each household are granted.
This is supposed to check overexploitation of the resources plus facilitate stern monitoring in the collection spots. Reports say that foresters in Bumthang already left a month ago to monitor the cordyceps collection sites.
Some of the popular cordyceps spots are Sinchilakha, Butsulakha, Japhukab and Rodo which are thousands of feet above sea level.
“Once we are back at the camp, the day’s collection is cleaned and dried; the routine is repeated till the season ends without a night’s sumptuous dinner,” said veteran codyceps collector Gyembo Tshering.
But there is a sense of an accomplishment when at the end of the collection season, the nomads head back with their family’s source of livelihood safe in their backpacks.
The highlanders thus earn an enviable amount of cash through the sale of cordyceps but it is only natural as they have worked hard for it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

“Dzonged out!”

The need to diversify tourism products felt
A few tourists visiting Bhutan are known to have said that they’re totally “dzonged out” because they are mostly taken to visit dzongs and fortresses. This, according to some observers, calls for diversification of services and products.
In sync with the government’s policy of bringing in 100,000 tourists by the end of the current plan, efforts are underway by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests to explore as many products as possible to attract tourists.
This includes opening up of protected areas in Bhutan often avoided for stringent rules protecting them. Officials believe that the protected areas in the country can provide diversity of products for the tourism sector.
Tourism products in Bhutan are predominantly oriented towards offering packages focused on showcasing the country’s unique cultural heritage.
Ecotourism is another that involves travelling or trekking while conserving the environment and improving the socio-economic conditions of local people.
“Tourism really sells nature and culture, those are tourism products,” the Chief Executive Officer of Beyond Green Travel, Coastas Christ said adding that when Bhutan embraces the principles of ecotourism and sustainability, it is ensuring that its tourism products, rich cultural heritage and still unspoiled natural environment will be able to generate economic opportunity for future Bhutanese.
According to him, it’s important for Bhutan to diversify its tourism products apart from dzongs and stupas.
Many innovative activities are being implemented in protected areas which contribute towards realization of better tourism.
The ecotourism trail in Nabji-Korphu within the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park provides an opportunity to tourists to experience life in rural Bhutan through home stays in the Nabji and Korphu communities.
“There are many different ways that Bhutan can appeal to different tourism markets; it does not only have to be the dzongs and I see no problems in Bhutan’s ability to showcase different aspects of the tourism experience to keep visitors coming back and new ones coming in,” said Rutchanee, a tourist.
Wangchuck Centennial Park in Bumthang holds annual nomads’ festival in Nagsephel which provides a platform for the highlanders from Haa, Paro, Thimphu, Gasa, Wangudephodrang, Bumthang, Trashi Yangtse and Trashigang to showcase their unique living cultures besides trading their products with tourists and other visitors.
This will provide high quality and innovative nature and community-based tourist packages to diversify the services offered by Bhutan tourism industry and also contribute to the preservation and maintenance of sites of special significance.
Takin festival in Gasa by Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park is also targeted towards attracting tourists. The festival held annually in honor of the national animal of Bhutan is expected to attract tourists.
“Most tourists are fascinated by our unique cultural heritage and embracing ecotourism would give them more opportunity to explore us in depth,” a guide, Yeshi Wangchuk said.
Chief Forestry Officer of Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division (NERD) Dr (Phd) Karma Tshering said, “The two major pillars of tourism are culture and nature. Because we have people living in the protected areas, we want to see them profiting from conservation and one of the most viable tools is eco-tourism.”
Although, it is yet to start off, the Langur festival in the southern part of the country is to be led by the Royal Manas National Park.
However, it is equally important to consider that opening all tourism avenues will lead to Bhutan being oversold and soon running out of specialty, according to an ecotourism expert.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

First Zhabdrung Dagnangma
Thongdrel unveiled

Hundreds of people
g a t h e r e d w h e n
a Z h a b d r u n g
Dagnangma Thongdrel (giant
appliqué scroll) was unfurled in
Semthokha Dzong in Thimphu
coinciding with the death
anniversary of Zhabdrung
The Thongdrel is believed to
be the first one in the country
out of many manifestations of
the Zhabdrung. It was created
with the support of sponsors and
ex-students of the Institute of
Language and Cultural Studies
(ILCS) who were at the institute
from 1961 to 2012.
According to Kunzang Dorji,
a Community Secretary, the day
is significant in the Buddhist
It is believed that the mere
viewing of the unfurled Thongdrel
will cleanse viewers of their sins,
earn them merit, and misfortune
awaiting them will be averted.
The Thongdrel which is 14 feet
long and 16 feet wide is preserved
at Semthokha Dzong and will be
unfurled during every Zhabdrung
Kuchoe( death anniversary of
Zhabdrung ).
The works on the Thongdroel
began last year with a budget of
Nu 1.7 mn.

7 dead in three caraccidents

Three Indians from
West Bengal and two
Bhutanese nationals
were killed in a car accident in
Taktikotey in Chukha around 5
pm yesterday.
The Santro car carrying
five passengers including the
driver were heading towards
Phuntsholing from Thimphu.
According to police officials,
the car fell about 200 meters
below the road when it took a
slight turn and veered off the
Among the two Bhutanese
nationals who died the 24 yearold
driver was from Trashigang
and the other 26-year-old
deceased was from Dagana.
The three Indian passengers
were construction workers
with a Bhutanese Construction
company and were heading
towards their hometown.
The dead bodies of the three
Indian workers were handed
over to their families as soon as it
was recovered from the site. The
bodies were recovered with the
help of Bhutanese construction
company owner and the rescue
All the deceased had died due
to severe head injuries.
This is the third car accident in
a week which saw 7 deaths due to
vehicle accidents.
A car accident in Buddha point
in Thimphu killed one student
at around 2 pm on 1st May,
2012. In another car accident in
Khaling, Trashigang the vehicle
carrying a whole family fell about
100 meters below the road and
killed one while the other family
members was referred for critical
The police are still
investigating the probable causes
of all three car accidents.
According to the police
officials car accidents are usually
caused either due to negligence
or mechanical failure.