Natural Heritage: National parks & wildlife
Sanctuary of Bhutan
Nowhere in the Himalayas is the natural heritage more rich and varied
than in Bhutan. In historical records, the Kingdom was called the "Valley
of Medicinal Herbs", a name that still applies to this day. About
71 per cent of the country's area is under forest cover.
For centuries, Bhutanese have treasured the natural environment and
have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional
reverence for nature has delivered Bhutan into the 21st century with an
environment still richly intact. The country wishes to continue living
in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to its future
Fortunately for Bhutan, maintaining a balanced natural ecosystem
remains the central theme of its development process. The country's
development policies disregard sacrificing its natural resource base for
short term economic gains and are consistent with the central tenets of
sustainable development, environmental conservation and cultural values.
In 1998, Bhutan was identified by Norman Myers as one of the ten
bio-diversity hot spots in the world. It has been identified as the
centre of 221 global endemic bird areas. The country signed the
Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. These
conventions were ratified in 1995 at the 73rd session of the National
Assembly. The Royal Government of Bhutan has also made a national
commitment to uphold its obligation to future generations by charting a
path of development called the "Middle Path"; - this is the
development which upholds both environmental and cultural preservation
as an integral part of the
An astonishing array of plants grow in Bhutan : over 5400 species,
including 300 species of medicinal plants and over 50 species of
rhododendrons. Of the more than 600 species of orchid, most are commonly
found up to 2,100m, although some hardy species thrive even above
Tropical evergreen forests growing below 800m are repositories of
unique bio-diversity. The next vegetation zone are the subtropical
grasslands and forests found between 900m and 1,800m. The tree
rhododendron is found in this zone, along with forest of oak, walnut and
sal, and numerous variety of orchid.
Temperate zone is a region of great diversity, largely influenced by
elevation. The tropical vegetation of the lower zones gives way to dark
forests of oak, birch, maple, magnolia and laurel. Above 2,400 altitude
is the home of spruce, yew, and weeping cypress, and higher still,
growing up to the tree line, is the east Himalayan fir. Between the tree
line and the snow line at about 5,500m are low shrubs, rhododendrons,
Himalayan grasses and flowering herbs.
Bhutan's national flower, Blue Poppy grows above the tree line 3,500 -
4,500m elevation and can be found atop some high passes from the far
eastern parts of the country all the way across to the west.
Because of its unique setting and relatively un-exploited environment,
Bhutan probably possesses the greatest biological diversity of any
country of its size in Asia. It certainly contains some of the best
remaining representatives of habitat types found in the Himalayas.
Along its southern border, the narrow tropical and subtropical belt
supports the Asiatic elephant, greater one-horned rhinoceros, gaur, wild
water buffalo, hog deer, tiger, clouded leopard, hornbill, trogon and
other mammals and birds characteristic of indomalayan species. Only 150
kilometers to the north, high Himalayan fauna include the blue sheep,
takin, musk deer, snow leopard, wolf and other species characteristic of
the Palearctic realm.
So far as 770 species of birds have been recorded in Bhutan which
reflects the Kingdom's wide range of agro-ecological environments - from
subtropical to alpine and its location at the northern edge of the
Zoogeographical oriental region and the permeable and fluid border with
China. Also country is famous for its over wintering populations (about
350 birds) of the vulnerable black-necked crane in the valleys of
Phobjikha, Bomdeling and Gyetsa.
National Parks & Protected Areas
Bhutan's history of
isolation and policy of sustainable development provides decision makers
with a unique opportunity to conserve the country's natural and cultural
heritage. As a first step in conserving its natural heritage, Bhutan has
established a system of nine protected areas. The system sets aside
approximately 26% of country's total land area in national parks, nature
reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation areas.
Kingdom established its national park system to protect important
ecosystems, and they have not been developed as tourist attraction. In
many case people even won't be aware that they are entering or leaving a
national park or wild life sanctuary.
Jigme Dorji National Park
It is the largest protected area in the country, encompassing an area
of 4,349 sq. km, covering the western parts of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha
and almost entire area of Gasa district. The park is habitat of several
endangered species including takin, blue sheep, snow leopard, musk deer,
Himalayan black bear and red panda.
Royal Manas National Park
This 1,023 sq km park in south central Bhutan adjoins the Black
Mountain National Park to the north and India's Manas National Park and
Manas Tiger reserve to the south. It is home of rhinoceros, buffalo,
tiger, leopard, gaur, bear, elephant, wild dog, pygmy hog, hispid hare
and several species of deer.
Black Mountain National Park
This reserve with an area of 1,723 sq km protect the range of hills
that separates eastern and western Bhutan. Its plant life includes wide
range of broadleaf species, conifers and alpine pastures. Animal life
includes tiger, Himalayan black bear, leopard, red panda, goral, serow,
sambar, wild pig and golden langur. The Phobjikha valley, wintering
place of black necked crane, is included in this park.
Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary
This 278 sq km area is in southern border of Bhutan, about 50 km east
of Phuentsholing and protects sal forests of the country. Several
protected species thrive in the sanctuary including axis deer, chital,
elephant, gaur, tiger, golden langur and hornbill.
Thrumshing la National Park
The 768 sq km Thrumshing la National Park lies between Bumthang and
Mongar and protects temperate forests of fir and chir pine. It is known
for its scenic vies, dense forests and alpine meadows. Presence of
threatened species viz. rufous necked hornbill, Satyra tragopan, Ward's
trogon, chestnut breasted partridge is a noteworthy feature of this
Kulong Chhu Wildlife Sanctuary
With an area of 1, 300 sq km, this reserve is a large area of alpine
tundra. The sanctuary protects the sambar and adjoins the Bomdeling
conservation area, which is an important roosting place of black-necked
Sakten Wildlife Sanctuary
Its in easternmost part of the country protecting 650 sq km temperate
forests of eastern blue pine and rhododendron. This sanctury is
established to protect the habitat of yeti.
Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated in far south-eastern Bhutan with an area of 273 sq km this
sanctuary protects wild elephant, gaur, pygmy hog, hispid hare and other
Toorsa Nature Reserve
It is in western part of the Ha district where Toorsa river enters from
Tibet. This 644 sq km reserve was established to protect the temperate
forests of far west Bhutan