Birdlife in Bhutan, three videos

This video says about itself:

The first of three videos covering a birding trip to Bhutan from 17th April to 5th May 2018. It covers the start of the trip from Paro to Darachu and includes the Paro Valley, Chelela Pass, Jigme Dorji National Park, Dochu La Pass, the river valleys and dzong at Punakha, and concluding at Darachu.

The trip was led by David Bishop from David Bishop Tours ably assisted by local guides and a ground crew from Gangri Tours.

These two videos are the sequels.

New dragonfly species named after baby Bhutanese prince

Gyalsey emerald spreadwing dragonfly

This month, Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands reports that a new dragonfly species from Bhutan has been named.

The insect was discovered in 2015, during a joint Bhutanese-Dutch expedition in eastern Bhutan.

Its name is Gyalsey emerald spreadwing dragonfly. Gyalsey means ‘prince’ in Bhutanese. The new species was named after the young crown prince of Bhutan; on his first birthday, the dragonfly’s name became known.

113 dragonfly species are known from Bhutan.

Dutch Naturalis biologists’ research in Bhutan: here.

Bird conservation news from Bhutan

This 2016 video is called Birding in Bhutan.

From BirdLife:

BirdLife Partnership stretches its wings to Bhutan

By Rosa Gleave, 9 Dec 2016

BirdLife International, the world’s largest conservation Partnership, has taken a new Partner under its wing: the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) in the fascinating and richly biodiverse nation of Bhutan.

Known in the local language as Druk Yul (meaning ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’), this diminutive country, nestled in the mountains which separate China and India, is famous for its fortress-like monasteries, ancient traditions and dramatic landscape. Bhutan is deeply protective of its natural heritage: long-standing traditions protect the landscape, where the constitution demands that a minimum of 60% of the land must remain forested for all future generations; this currently stands at over 70%.

Thanks to its forest cover, it is the world’s only carbon negative country – meaning its forests absorb more carbon dioxide per year than its pollutants emit. … Bhutan is still home to some globally-threatened species, and RSPN performs vital work to protect them.

Established in 1987, RSPN in Bhutan becomes the 122nd BirdLife Partner organisation. As the largest conservation NGO in Bhutan, it dedicates itself to pioneering biodiversity safeguards, the environment and sustainable development. Boasting strong credibility and enjoying popularity and recognition, both locally and across borders, RSPN were awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award in 2010 for its conservation work and impacts in the country.

With over 600 members in a country of less than a million people, RSPN easily stands its ground across the wider BirdLife Partnership. RSPN has established field offices across the country to cover programme implementation and support its conservation, education, livelihoods and research.

RSPN was approved as a full BirdLife Partner at November’s Global Council of BirdLife International meeting in Sri Lanka. “The BirdLife Asia Partnership is excited to work closely with RSPN for nature and people across Asia.” said Prof Sarath Kotagama, Chair of BirdLife Asia Council.

“[The Bhutanese people’s] natural way of living with their environment actually contributes to conservation, however that doesn’t mean there are no threats to wildlife; that’s why BirdLife needs a Partner there” adds Dr Hazell Thompson, Director of Partnership & Regions at BirdLife International. “Welcome and well done to Bhutan.”

Bhutan is a small, landlocked country with an area of 38,394 km2 situated on the southern slopes of the Eastern Himalayas in South Asia situated between the world’s two most populated countries; China to its north and India to its east, west and south. It is part of the Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspot.

“It was indeed a great joy for RSPN to finally become member of the BirdLife International”, said Dr Kinley Tenzin, Executive Director of RSPN. “There is much more we need to do and now I am sure RSPN is in safe hands. Time has called on all of us to come together and work together for a greater cause.”

Bhutan contains 23 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs), eight eco-regions, and a number of Important Plant Areas and wetlands, including three Ramsar Sites with a surface area of 1,226 hectares. The diverse ecosystems and eco-floristic zones have made Bhutan home to a wide array of flora and fauna, including the snow leopard Panthera uncia and Pallas’ Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus.

While overall biodiversity conservation is ensured through the protected area network, species-specific conservation plans are limited to a couple of threatened species like the White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis, and Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis.

RSPN is actively involved in the conservation of these species due to their significance both nationally and globally. Bhutan ranks in the top ten percent of countries with the highest species density on earth, and it has the highest fraction of land in protected areas as well as the highest proportion of forest cover of any Asian nation. Thus, it is one of a very few countries that have an opportunity to maintain its biodiversity largely intact.

Congratulations and welcome to RSPN as the latest BirdLife family member.

Fight wildlife crime in Bhutan, app

This video says about itself:

Bhutan-Phibsoo wildlife sanctuary-part 1

2 March 2012

Home to Spotted Deer (Axis axis) and natural sal (Shorea robusta) forests, found nowhere else in the country.

And this video is part 2.

From the Wildife Trust of India:

Developing a Mobile App to Help Curb Wildlife Crime

The following is a first person account by Jose Louise on his experiment with technology to fight wildlife trade in Bhutan.

Who wants yet another booklet in the bag to misplace? Why can’t the identification guide be electronic?

Chhoglay Namgyal, member of the Forest Protection and Surveillance Unit (FPSU, and I were in the middle of a month-long training for the frontline forest guards of Bhutan, travelling from one end of the country to another conducting joint training programmes on wildlife crime prevention and management.

A PDF file in the mobile phone is not a bad idea, but why not an app itself?

My former career in IT still refuses to let go and the idea to develop an app for species identification was thus born.

Finding the right developer was the toughest task. The first company we approached was ready to make the app within a month after going through the concept and presentations, but they quoted a sum enough to develop another version of Android OS all together.

Subsequent developers we met did not fit the bill and time was running out. Then a common friend introduced me to a young app developer based at Mumbai who was ready to take a look at the concept. He responded to my email within an hour, saying that he was ready to give it a try.

After an hour long discussion on the phone, he was ready to make a prototype even without a payment! “I love wildlife and I am ready to do this for the cause at a minimal cost and the risk is all mine”, he said. That’s how the prototype came into being.

Developing an app is not an easy task, even if it is mostly static mobile-based software. While the developers need each detail, you need to be clear about navigation, communication, information security and even aesthetic options.

Here’s what we needed for an interactive guide for illegal wildlife trade species identification:

The ability for an authorized user to search for a particular species of animal by name or category.

Brief descriptions about the animal, its distribution, legal protection status, etc.

Various photos of derivatives and so a user can check images, enlarge them and compare with the products he has in hand.

A built-in messaging system so users can mutually connect to collaborate on identification.

IFAW-WTI team members performed a preliminary testing of this app and after a few months of tweaking it was ready for prototype testing.

We presented the app to a 14-member team of Bhutan forestry officials in the month of May during another crime prevention training. The application file was shared over emails and all of them could install it on various phones.

The functionality was smooth.

We have just received official communication from the Bhutan government that they will go ahead with the deployment of the app as part of their wildlife trade control initiatives.

Fortunately, once the app is developed and used for Bhutan, the same structure can be replicated in any country or region.

For now, I am back to flow charts and discussing the final tweaks with the developer testing the app on various mobile phones and ensuring that there are no technical issues during the final stage of roll out.

Good tiger news from Bhutan

This 2017 video says about itself:

A yak herder gives Emmanuel a vital insight into the life of the tiger and the threats it faces in Bhutan.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Bhutan tiger population higher than previously thought, survey reveals

Himalayan country’s first nationwide survey finds 103 tigers, but WWF warns big cat was facing a crisis elsewhere south-east Asia

Wednesday 29 July 2015 10.50 BST

Bhutan is home to more than 100 tigers, a rise of more than a third on the previous population estimate, a survey has revealed.

The first national tiger survey in the tiny Himalayan country, conducted entirely by Bhutanese nationals, has found there are 103 tigers, up from the previous estimate of 75.

But while conservationists welcomed the news from Bhutan’s first nationwide tiger survey, they warned the big cat was facing a crisis in south-east Asia where some countries are failing to assess populations.

Countries need to carry out national surveys as a crucial step in the “Tx2” goal agreed in 2010 by tiger range nations to double numbers of the endangered cat by 2022, wildlife charity WWF said.

Dechen Dorji, WWF Bhutan country representative, said: “The roaring success of Bhutan’s first ever nationwide survey gives us a rare look into the lives of the magnificent tigers roaming across the entire country.

“This is an incredible achievement with great teamwork and leadership from the Royal Government of Bhutan.”

The news, on Global Tiger Day, comes after Bangladesh announced the results from its first national tiger survey which revealed there were 106 wild tigers in the country, a lower figure than the previous estimate.

But WWF said the previous figure was based on less reliable methodology than the new systematic survey which included the use of camera traps, and could have led to overestimates for the number of tigers in Bangladesh.

Experts from Malaysia have suggested that tiger numbers in the country have as much as halved from the previous estimate of 500 in 2010 to as few as 250, and the government has announced its intention to conduct its first national tiger survey.

But tiger numbers are unknown in Indonesia, Thailand and Burma, and there are thought to be no breeding populations in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, WWF said.

Mike Baltzer, WWF Tigers Alive initiative leader said: “There is a tiger crisis in south-east Asia.

“Countries are not counting their tigers and are at risk of losing them if immediate action isn’t taken. Political support is weaker and resources are fewer, while poaching and habitat loss are at critical levels.

“Until countries know the reality on the ground they can’t take appropriate action to protect their tigers.

“WWF is calling on all south-east Asian tiger countries to count their tigers and on the global tiger conservation community to focus efforts in these critical south-east Asian countries.”

There has been some good news for tigers across their range, with figures released earlier this year showing an increase in numbers in India, while Amur tigers are on the rise in their Russian Far East home, according to the latest census results.

Nepal’s last survey in 2013 found tiger numbers had increased there and there are indications that tigers are settling and breeding in north eastern China, WWF said.

Religious trade in Nepalese ‘orphan’ girls

A Nepali mother, reunited at last with her trafficked daughter, photo: RUBEENA MAHATO

Translated from Dutch (Protestant Christian) daily Trouw:

Trafficked ‘orphans’ trained to become missionaries

Lucia de Vries – 07/17/13, 03:30

Dozens of children from Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, India and Burma are trafficked because of religious motives. They are from Buddhist and Hindu families and are educated in orphanages to become Christian missionaries.

Mediation fee

Trouw investigated the bizarre story of the Nepalese ‘Humla girls’, from the remote Humla district in the Himalayas. A decade ago, their parents made a difficult choice: leave the kids at home where they might be recruited, possibly by Maoist rebels, or hand them to a people smuggler, to an unknown destination. They chose the latter. The smuggler was a famous Nepalese politician, who had managed to get the confidence of the parents. He arranged that families were deprived of their parental authority and brought the children to India in exchange for a mediation fee and a ‘school fee’. The parents usually thought that the children would get a [not religiously sectarian] education in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

The 32 Humla girls spent their childhood in the Michael Job Centre in Tamil Nadu, founded by ‘Dr. P. P. Job ‘. This recently deceased Indian evangelist, who was known as the Billy Graham of Asia, gave the girls new names and identities.

For ‘the daughters of Christian martyrs’ – in reality, their Buddhist parents were still alive – the orphanage looked for sponsors. They include the Dutch Foundation for Helping Persecuted Christians (HVC), an orthodox Protestant organization, which funds the project.

Helping girls

Two years ago the Humla girls, in a rescue operation, supported by the Indian and Nepalese authorities, were taken from the children’s home and returned to their homeland. Part of the group were reunited with their parents. The Dutch foundation still supports the girls financially in their work as evangelists, including trying to convert their parents. For the girls, it is not always easy to be back. They hardly speak Nepali or Humli, making communication, even with parents, sometimes tricky.

Jan Bor, Director of the Foundation Help for Persecuted Christians has recently wondered ‘eighty times’ what he did wrong, after the harsh criticism of the way in which the ‘orphan’ girls ended up in an Indian orphanage. …

Ethical standards deficient

Bor still thinks that the return of the girls to their parents was wrong. About the Nepalese politician cum people smuggler he is less negative: “I know he is known as a smuggler but he has very good connections at government level. According to the girls he’s good for them. I still value him …”

The smuggling out of religious motives is controversial in Nepal. Some parents and social workers believe that good education is more important than respecting freedom of religion or identity. They would have preferred that the girls had remained in India. A leader of the Nepalese Council of Churches disagreed. He calls on Christian donors like HVC to be less gullible and to improve their ethical standards.

From Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform in Nepal:

Duelling videos on Humla trafficker Dal Bahadur Phadera

The name of this human smuggling Nepalese politician indicates he is from the feudal elite.

First, from the Esther Benjamins Trust:

23 Nepali girls rescued from ‘mission’

Our September rescue operation which freed 23 Nepali girls has been vindicated by the Child Welfare Council (CWC) in India.

The CWC has ordered the closure of the centre from which the children were freed.

The girls were in The Michael Job Centre in Tamil Nadu. The centre is well known to authorities in Nepal and India. It claimed to offer sanctuary to children of Christian martyrs; many of the children we rescued had in fact been taken there by known trafficking agent D B Phadera after their parents had paid what appears to amount to a placement fee.

We are planning the future care of these children, to work out who can safely be reunited with their family and who might need genuine residential refuge and support as they rebuild their lives.

See also here on human smuggler Dal Bahadur Phadera and the Humla girls.

Rare Indian monkeys helped by rope bridges

This video from India is called The Golden Langur Conservation Project.

From Wildlife Extra:

New rope bridges helping to save endangered Golden langurs in India

Connecting canopies – ropeways to save the endangered langurs – Courtesy of The Wildlife Trust of of India

November 2012: As humans make an ever increasing indelible mark on the work, wildlife is constricted into smaller and small, and more and more fragmented habitats. In a few places, some allowance is now being made for the needs of wildlife when major obstacles are constructed. Wildlife over and under passes are becoming more common on major roads, fish ladders have been around for many years, and ropeways, already in use in Africa and Australia, have now been installed in a small corner of India to allow endangered Golden langurs to cross a large highway.

Golden langurs – endemic to the Indo-Bhutan region, have been using ropeways to safely cross a 500-m stretch of road near Chakrasila Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS). The stretch of road had claimed numerous golden langurs in the last few years, but since the installation of the ropeways in January this 2012, no death due to accidents on the road has been reported.

Golden langur

The golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) is an endangered primate with its distribution restricted between the Manas and Sonkosh rivers, in Assam. Its range includes The Chakrasila Wildlife Sanctuary and parts of Bhutan. It feeds on fruits, leaves, seeds, flowers etc. It is listed under schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

On the northern boundary of Chakrasila, the 500-m road separates the sanctuary from plantation forests used by the resident langurs as an extension of their habitat. The langurs were compelled to descend on to the ground and cross the road risking accidents, attacks by feral dogs or even poaching.

“Golden langurs are essentially arboreal and are not agile on ground. What we know is that there were 10 cases of these magnificent animals killed in this stretch since 2005 as per our records. Who knows how many cases went undetected, or how many other individuals lost to other causes due to this fragmentation,” said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury of the International Fund for Animal Welfare – Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI).

As part of their Greater Manas Conservation Project, the Bodoland authorities and IFAW-WTI initiated a Rapid Action Project (RAP) in January this year to help save the langurs. Ropeways of bamboo and ropes were created and strategically placed between canopies of trees in areas regularly used by the langurs to cross over. These ropeways were placed at a height of 60 m from the ground.

“Initially, understandably the langurs hesitated to use these bridges. But now they appear to have been habituated and are frequently seen to use them,” said Dr Panjit Basumatary, IFAW-WTI veterinarian who brought the issue to light.

“This shows the extent of fragmentation of natural habitats and the difficulties faced by wildlife. Nothing would be better than natural contiguous canopy, but such interventions are becoming more and more common and the only way out in many of the cases,” said primatologist Mayukh Chatterjee.

Indian rhino and tiger news


From Wildlife Extra:

14 tigers identified in Manas National Park & rhino gives birth

India/Bhutan cross border park tiger study finds 14 tigers

October 2012. The results of the first combined tiger monitoring study undertaken by Bhutan and India in the trans border Manas National Park identified 14 individual tigers, five each in Manas Tiger Reserve in India and Royal Manas National Park and four being common to both parks.

Rhino birth

One of the female rhinos translocated from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to the Manas National Park has given birth to a calf. The rhino, romantically designated as ‘Rhino 10′ was translocated in January 2012. A total of 18 rhinos – ten from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and eight from Kaziranga National Park have been translocated so far to Manas National Park.

The birth indicates that the translocated rhinos have adapted well to the new environment and are beginning to thrive. This is the first offspring to be born to a translocated rhino in Manas.

Under IRV 2020, Manas National Park has been provided much support to upgrade its infrastructure and monitoring capabilities to enable better protection for the translocated rhinos.

New fish species discovered in Bhutan

This video is called Bhutan – the last true Illusion of Shangri-La.

From Kuensel daily in Bhutan:

New fish species discovered in Lingshi

7 September, 2007 – A new fish species, not previously reported in Bhutan, has been discovered in the streams of Lingshi gewog, say officials of the department of livestock.

The Triplophysa stoliczkae, commonly called the loach was first discovered in a stream of the Tshoka Tsho (lake) by Phub Tshering, a park guard of the Jigme Dorji National Park, on September 23 last year.

Mr. Phub Tshering was among the team from JDNP, the Nature Conservation Division and Department of Forests, which, on the command His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, had set out to investigate the possibility of existence of fish in the water bodies of Lingshi. …

The discovery of a new species brings the total number of fish species recorded in Bhutan to about 50, caught and identified by two livestock officials.

The fish is distinguished by black saddle-shaped bands on the back, spotted caudal and dorsal fins, and spotted dorsal surface of outer rays of paired fins and anterior rays. The fish grows up to a length of about 100 mm.

The distribution of this fish species is found in India, Ladakh (headwaters of Indus) and China.

Although the fish has no economical value, it has important ecological import, livestock officials said. The National Cold Water Fishery Centre will undertake studies on the possibility of its use as an ecological indicator (sentinel species) for monitoring environmental health.

The Centre is mandated with compiling a database of fishery resources and water quality of all water bodies, including fishery development in the kingdom.

In the northern rivers of Bhutan, three species of snow trouts, scyzothor[a]x and the brown trout, introduced in Bhutan as early as the 1930s, were found. In the low levels and warmer parts of the country, where the air temperature is above 29C, the Mahseer is found.

The Mahseer species, according to the livestock director, comes to Bhutan during the breeding season in summer and goes back during the winter.

The other warm water species found in Bhutan are Pseudocheneis, Psilorhynchus, Nemachylus, Gar[r]a, Danius, Semiplotus, Barsilius etc.

Meanwhile, extensive studies on fish-fauna in the rivers of Bhutan were never carried out before, but officials believe that there may be around 197 species, in line with the fish species found in neighbouring regions in India, Nepal and the Himalayan vicinity.