Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Snow Leopards in Bhutan : Queen of Himalayas

Some say “Mountain ghosts” and some refer to as “Queen of Himalayas”. Me in my own way and to me,  I  can’t  resist to refer them as the” King of Himalayas”, the elusive and cryptic species  “SNOW LEOPARD”.   Bhutan is known for its un-matching biodiversity richness. The per capita of biodiversity richness for a small country like Bhutan would be beyond any doubt be one of  the highest among the countries.  

Untill recent, when camera traps were not deployed for snow leopard survey, irrespective of the concrete evidence reports from the field, many people questioned the true existence.  In normal surveys, FALSE ABSENCE is often a big consideration due to DETECTABILITY  factor, but for snow leopards in Bhutan, it was more of a FALSE PRESENCE. It is at time a big question whether we really have snow leopards in Bhutan.

This is where and when the modern technology rescued conservationists in Bhutan in raising our heads while talking on snow leopards. In a difficult terrain like Bhutan’s, no amount of energy would suffice the search for Himalayan kings, and last resort one would wish for is magic and magical powers. Rugged and in accessible  terrains compounded by high altitudes with low oxygen level  is not only an inhibiting factors for the researchers in Bhutan’s high mountain terrains, but a matter of daring to sacrifice one’s life to struggle with the available oxygen in those places. Up on the mountains, where you feel at the height above most of the places on the planet except for few peaks like EVEREST and its competitor ranges,  one will wish for only one thing, the SNOW LEOPARD rolling on its tail on the snow covered steep slopes.

Findings from the camera trapping effort in the northern protected areas of Bhutan in last 2 years span has proven more than anyone could wish the proof to be.  Numerous individuals have been captured in Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) and Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP).  Big cats are solitary in nature, but who said that they are lone animals. Like everyone do, they love their families. So is the Snow leopard family in WCP has been captured using the remote camera.

The officials of WCP, disregarding all the above hostile factors gave their best for the conservation and so did they get their best.  Thanks to all the dedicated heroes of WCP. There have been many records of pictorial findings throughout the snow leopard ranges, but to me atleast, three individuals captured on a single shot in a  camera trap is probably the first one ever (pardon me if I have missed any from others parts of the world).

And that is how snow leoopards survive in the KINGDOM of BHUTAN and Bhutan is  a special place for HIMALAYAN KINGS.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Expressing my views in my own ways............: Global Tiger Day celebration in Bhutan

Expressing my views in my own ways............: Global Tiger Day celebration in Bhutan:                                                                Global Tiger Day  celebration in Bhutan     The conservation of big...

Global Tiger Day celebration in Bhutan

                                                               Global Tiger Day  celebration in Bhutan

The conservation of big cats especially tigers, snow leopards and leopards that require large home ranges, is becoming increasingly difficult with an increasing human population, developmental activities, and increasing grazing pressures amongst others. While Bhutan boasts of enough space and promising habitat to support a viable population of breeding tigers in the years to come, the challenges facing tiger conservation are not limited. While strengths for conservation of tigers in Bhutan include people’s support, of late, the increased intensity of livestock predation by tigers has become an issue of concern because of the possible retaliatory killing of tigers by the affected owners of the livestock whose livelihood depends entirely on rearing livestock.

Through our preliminary research in reassessing the tigers in Tongsa forest range under Zhemgang Forest Division, it was confirmed that there are tigers thriving in the government reserve forest ( territorial divisions) which are meant to be meeting the timber supply to the communities. Moreover, the habitat occupied is at close proximity to the settlements and the rate of livestock predation was found to be alarming. If we are to achieve the goal of conserving tigers, their protection  is crucial. In protecting them, communities are the main guardians and therefore the need of  working closely with the communities in the tiger landscape is felt as  a priority.

In 2011, Bhutan observed the Global tiger day on 29th July  to create awareness among the youths. The day was observed with the students and teachers, NGOs and Enforcement agencies. This year (2012), as it was felt necessary, tiger day in Bhutan was celebrated in a remote area of country with the communities of Nubi geog under Tongsa district, a place where tigers have been found to be thriving in the habitat which is prone to livestock-tiger conflict. This year’s theme for the day was Tigers and Communities-Coexisting in harmony for mutual survival”. The Global Tiger Day is an annual celebration to raise awareness for tiger conservation held annually on 29 July and strongly advocated by all the Tiger Range Countries. It was first proposed in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit. The goal of the day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitat of tigers and to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues.
The day was graced by H.E. Dasho Paljor J. Dorji, Deputy Minister and the Special Advisor to the National Environment Commission as the Chief guest.  H.E is the pioneer in Bhutan’s Tiger conservation. What more can we expect than to have such a global personality on the global tiger day, a man supposed to be old, but who becomes young the moment we talk about tigers.
The day will be remembered as the small and narrow Bjeezam school ground was crowded by over 400 people from Nubi geog and else where with the continuous music of conservation by Mangdee chu. It was also an occasion for the communities to meet their representatives to the parliament as they graced the big day as well. Other participants included the Sector Heads of Trongsa Dzongkhag, officials of Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) and the staff and students of Bjeezam Primary School.   
In Bhutan, this year’s Global Tiger Day was coordinated by the Wildlife Conservation Division in collaboration with Wangchuck Centennial Park, Jigme Singye National Park and Zhemgang Territorial Forest Division of the Department of Forests and Park Services. The event was financially supported by Royal Government of Bhutan, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).  I thank all the individuals involved for the grand success of the day. Men in green from WCP,JSWNP and ZFD are highly acknowledged.  Thank you IFAW,WTI and WWF for your concern and support.
To me as an organizer of the event, I feel energized. Energy of conservation is in the store of communities. Getting communities on board is the key and  I (we) got the key for now……………will wait how long this key will remain secured. As long as we can keep the key secured, Tigers in Bhutan have a  hope….a hope for  roaring……. “Let them roar forever” be our prayers and wishes..