Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Risks and threats in preserving of Bumdeling wildlife Sanctuary

Tanden Zangmo/Thimphu

In contrary to conventional beliefs that presence of human settlements, developmental

activities and farming within the park areas impedes conservation of flora and fauna, a

research conducted by the department of forest and park services has found out that

human settlement and farming practices are critical to its preservation.

In commemoration of 108 National day, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest has

launched three publications which provides information on the importance of human

settlement and farming while conserving endangered species.

The research findings were recorded by a team of researchers from the BWS  recently

conducted a study in park provinces of BWS , one of the prime habitats of BNC and other

endangered wildlife species , in an attempt to not only identify the different threats, but

also to determine other risks.

The park officials have identified six threats associated to the park and conservation of

flora and fauna in the park vicinity.

As per the book called ‘Protected Areas of Bhutan’ One of the critical observations made

is the reduction in the feeding areas and habitat loss due to fallow land where farmers

abandon their paddy field due to unfertile soil for cultivation.

From the six threats, such as biological, social, natural, political threats etc, the

researchers pointed out that the biological threat has a more direct impact on decline on

the number of flora and fauna.

For instance the finding states that there is a strong statistical correlation between bird

population and farming practices. This means the bird population depends on the way and

type of farming activities people practice. “More areas under cultivation means more

foraging areas for cranes, thus more numbers of cranes visitation,” the research book


The research also states that the habitat loss is continuously happening due to landslides,

flood and other human activities such as construction of infrastructure, collection of

forest products and litering the park areas.

The park is also at the risk of losing protected species like Tiger, snow leopard, musk

deer and black necked crane due to poaching, habitat change, disturbance and retaliatory


The team has examined and tried to look into the developmental activities where

construction of unfriendly road and cutting of transmission line corridors has resulted into

habitat fragmentation and destruction of vegetation

This study analysis concludes that the people are an integral part and parcel of the

sustainability of Black-Necked cranes and other wildlife, and their participation in the

wildlife conservation works is very much important.

Population trends of the most vulnerable bird species, BNCs (Grus nigricollis), the

researchers said is fluctuating, possibly due to habitat loss and degradation.

BWS was established in 1994 in the northeastern part of Bhutan covering over an area of

1520.61 km square and the park covers three gewogs of Trashiyangtse  dzongkhag and

one gewog ecach from Mongar and Lhuntse.

The park is home for 734 plant species including 31v ferns, 349 herbs, 64 orchids, 108

shurbs, 42 mammals, 343 birds, 202 butterflies, 18 species of snakes, 4 lizards and 7 fish

species which signifies that the park has rich diversity of both flora and fauna.

The park is also identified as an important bird thriving area by the Birdlife International

as the endangered species like BNC, wood snipers and grey-crowned prinias and other

significant birds are found in the park provinces. Also the park is recognized of the

Bhutan’s swallowtail, a butterfly species rediscovered.

Monday, December 28, 2015

New bird recorded to the Bird list of Bhutan

Tanden Zangmo

Bhutan is considered to be one of the top biodiversity hotspot in the world. Such a

tagging is befitting for Bhutan has been able to maintain large forest coverage, both rich

and intact. Such a provision provides safe haven for many floral and faunal species to

thrive unperturbed.

With the record of yet another new bird species the official number of bird species

recorded in Bhutan will reach a high of 701 after the sighting of Sharp-tailed Sand on

October this year by the officials from Royal Society for the Protection of Nature


The bird was confirmed as new record not recorded earlier of its presence in the Country

by the Ornithologist at Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment

(UWICE) in Bumthang.

The official with the RSPN, Tashi Dawa said that the new bird was sighted in Buli under

Zhemgang dzongkhag while conducting biodiversity assessment of Buli wetland and the

footage of the new bird was sent for confirmation to Ornithologist Sherab.

He said that the three officials were unsure about the bird’s record in the Bhutan’s Bird

List and the footage of the bird was later sent to UWICE for confirmation.

According to the Ornithologist Sherab, the bird sighted by the RSPN officials is

confirmed as a new record to the Bhutan’s Bird List.

He said that the bird is a winter visitor which is recorded in the Birds of the Indian Sub-

continent so far.

He said that the country’s policy has always been very much conducive for the flora and

fuana diversity to thrive as is evident from the constitutional requirement to maintain 60

percent of the land under forest coverage for all time to come.

He further added that the huge altitudinal ranges that rises from tropical forests in the

south to the alpine region in the north is one reason why Bhutan is home to huge

collection of flora and fauna which is supplemented by strong political will as well as

conservation efforts the government invests such that country has conservationists spread

all across the country.

As per the literature  the sharp-tailed sadpipers is bird resembles the pectoral sandpiper,

within whose Asian range it breeds and It differs from that species in its breast pattern,

stronger supercilium  and more rufous crown.

The breeding adults have rich brown with darker feather centres above, and white

underneath apart from a buff breast with a light superciliary line above the eye and a

chestnut crown.

During the  winter, sharp-tailed sandpipers are grey above while the  juveniles are

brightly patterned above with rufous colouration and white mantle stripes

These birds are known to forage on grasslands and mudflats, like the pectoral sandpiper,

picking up food by sight, sometimes by probing and they are also known to feed on

insects and other inverterbrates.

Meanwhile Buli already provided home to about 71  species of birds among which the

sparrows and bulbuls are found mostly in the area and the Hornbills are found often.
Bulb Onion cultivation in east to curtail imports

Tanden Zangmo/Thimphu

Bulb onion cultivation in the eastern region has proven to be a successful venture and the

shops nearby has now been replaced by local variety as the mass cultivation is increasing

in the region.

As part of boosting home production of onion, the RDC Wengkhar has initiated the bulb

onion cultivation in the country few years ago and this year the mass cultivation has

initiated in Trashigang from this month.

The wetland remaining fallow during the winter months are being utilized for bulb onion

cultivation and most farmers have expressed that the paddy and onion cropping system

suits best in irrigated wetland.

According to the Research Officer with the RNR RDC Wengkhar, Kinley Tshering,

initiative of Research and Development Centre (RDC), Wengkhar under Ministry of

Agriculture and Forests have enrolled many eastern farmers in mass bulb onion


He said that the commercial production started to take advantage of the current scenario

in the Country where the vegetable is heavily imported although Country has huge

production potential.

The potentiality was proven by a study undertaken by RDC in the past which found out

that onion production helped farmers generate net returns of Nu. 60,000-126,450 per


He said that the intervention has also received positive interest from farmers since it can

be cultivated in wetlands after paddy is harvested, which otherwise are left fallow.

Hence, the onion cultivation goes well as relay crop in the paddy based farming system in

potential areas of the eastern region.

The intervention according to him was driven by the need to minimize not only huge

quantity of the import but also boost domestic production of vegetables in line with the

commercial vegetable production initiated by Department of Agriculture (DoA).

When asked about the advantage of onion cultivation over other cash crops, Kinley

Tshering said that growing of onion was easier than the other cash crops since the crop  is

less damage by wild animals during the fallow phase and in addition the crop remain

unaffected by major pests and diseases.

 “Onion cultivation is easy and entail less hard work” Kinley Tshering said.

The area under onion cultivation has increased from 19 acres to 29 acres in 2014 in

addition to increase in the number of households from 133 in 2013 to 226 households in

2014. The project initially implemented mainly in Lhuentse and Trashigang.

Similarly the production has also increased from 36.3 tonnes in 2013 to 44.6 in 2014, a

year after. Among the dzongkhags, Samdrupjongkhar has led the production producing

almost 50 percent of the total onion production. The increasing trend was also observed

in other Dzongkhags.

In the marketing front, farmers were able to sell about 50 percent of the onion they

produced in both the years bringing home a cash income of Nu.0.545 million to Nu.0.753

million in respective years.

Farmers in Samdrupjongkhar have minted the highest income in 2013 amounting to Nu.

0.256 million which Lhuentse has took over in 2014 with 0.201million income generated.

Lately Mongar too observed a drastic increase in income generated compared to the

previous season.

In addition, it is felt that no frequent intercultural operations are required except for about

2-3 weeding and irrigation during the entire season and can be sold as green vegetable

like spring onions in late March and April when green vegetable are not readily available

Encouraged by such success, the RDC, Wengkhar is further planning to bring more areas

under bulb onion cultivation by exploring other areas where onion can be cultivated in

the similar manner.

The bulb site and the farmers for growing onion growing was done with the geog

Agriculture extension after which seeds of variety bulb onion variety called Pune Red

was procured from National Seed Centre, Paro. The funding support for seed

procurement was given by RGoB, HRDP-JICA and MAGIP.

The Research team from RDC Wengkhar, RDSC khangma under Trashigang dzongkhag

in collaboration with with dzongkhag agriculture sector in Trashigang has already

completed onion cultivation in seven  low lying places under Trashigang dzongkhag.
Studies found out that WBH mortality is high in Bhutan 

Tanden Zangmo/Thimphu 

With roughly 200 White-Bellied Herons (Ardea Insignis) in the world today, herons are
among the 50 rarest bird species on earth and Bhutan alone shelters about 28 herons in
the country with 27 alone in their prime habitat at Punatsangchu valley in Punakha.

As an initiative by the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) in conserving
the habitat of the critically endangered species in the world has established two important
WBH habitat places like Punatsangchu basin, Wangduephodrang dzongkhag and Berthi
in Zhemgang.

Despite numerous initiatives taken up by RSPN in conserving the critically endangered
bird, the mortality rate of the bird has always remained high due to manmade and natural

As per the report released by RSPN, the endangered bird is found dead every year and
RSPN has recorded causalities of 12 individuals since 2003 to 2015 at different locations.

The report stated that in 2011 alone Bhutan lost three WBH roosting in  Phochu vicinity
to the predators and another two in 2014 in its Harrarongchu  habitat where the dead was
unable to determine.

According to the report the dead of the critically endangered bird has happened due to
forest fire, electrocution, wild animals preying on the bird and other  reasons like chick
felling out of the nest, drowning in the river and injuries sustained by the bird.

From among the 12 dead of the critically endangered bird, three individuals have died
due to electrocution, three were predated by the predators, two individuals were died with
unknown reasons, and similarly other four individuals were died  either by falling from
the nest, drowning in the river, injured in the wings and killed during the forest fire.

The report has also stressed that  the research has found out that since 2003 the
population of white Bellied Heron has remained constant contradicting to the Regular
population survey and nest monitoring activities which found out that around 10-12
juveniles produced annually.

 “There is no clear understanding about why there is no significant increase in WBH
population in the country” Report stated

As per the recent population census conducted by Royal Society for Protection of Nature
(RSPN) from 27 February to 3 March this year Bhutan has 14 percent of the world’s total
WBH population.

RSPN has been carrying out WBH population census regularly for last 13 years and their
census has revealed that atleast12 WBH juveniles are produced every year. Hence, the
number of WBH in the country has,on an average remained constant during the entire
survey period.

During the census survey RSPN has counted 14 individuals in their maiden survey in
2003 and since then, the WBH population has seen a steady rise in the Country until 2009
where RSPN recorded the highest of 30 herons in 2008 and 2009.

However, the number has declined for next 4 years of after the survey and the in 2013
survey, RSPN was able to count only 20, which was a drastic decline from the 10 less
highest records of 30.

Yet last year the survey conducted from February 24 to 28, has recorded a rise with two
more individuals from the previous year.

Although the mortality rate of the critically endangered bird has been significant over the
years, Bhutan still have good number of WBH with the aggressive conservation effort
pursued by RSPN in collaboration with Department of Forest and Park Services

RSPN has also completed assessment of Mitochondrial Genetic Diversity of endangered
bird and WBH chick in captivity has reared for the first time.
Apart from the existing conservation effort, RSPN is also carrying out various activities
which include community awareness, long term conservation strategies and “White-
bellied Heron Recovery Plan” project.