With Bhutan being such a champion for conservation, the country is a prime example of how wildlife can thrive when there are regulations in place for their protection. The small size of the country doesn’t impede in the ability to have a myriad of options for viewing diverse wildlife. Here are a few places that wildlife-loving travelers should check out in Bhutan.
Motihang Takin Preserve
The Motihang Takin Preserve in Thimphu is a guaranteed chance to see a Takin without having to trek through the forests of Bhutan. A takin is a large goat-antelope mix, and is the kingdom’s national animal. Found in eastern India and Bhutan, this docile species was under threat due to hunting in India. There is a small pathway that winds through the forest of the persevere, and several other woodland animals also graze at the preserve. The Takin Preserve is an easy stop at the beginning or end of your Bhutan journey, as it’s not far outside the capital.
From November through February, rare black-necked cranes soar in droves to the Phobjikha Valley as they migrate from Tibet. Also known as the Gangteng Valley, it is the largest in the kingdom. The swooping cranes are a spiritual bird, and during the last week of October they circle around the Gangteng Monastery on their return migration to Tibet.
This region is overseen by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature, a faction of the Ministry of Agriculture, to ensure birds like the black-necked crane and other threatened species are properly protected.
Bhutan is known for its elaborate festivals, and in late October/early November, a festival is held for the cranes. Locals and visitors alike gather in the valley to attend masked dances and celebrations.
Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary
Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, located in the Trashigang region of Eastern Bhutan, is a popular place for outdoor enthusiasts. Not only is it a space for wildlife observers and bird watchers, but the forests are dotted with Eastern Blue Pines, an uncommon evergreen. Within the sanctuary are two villages, Merak and Sakteng, and the semi-nomadic Brokpa people inhabit this region.
Royal Manas National Park
The wild cats in the Royal Manas National Park are among the most diverse in the world. Snow and clouded leopards can be found in the foothills and high altitudes of the Himalayas. These elusive felines are often seen when hiking along the Snowman Trek. The trek is said to be the most difficult in the world, yet it’s very beautiful. Royal Manas is also home to many Bengal Tigers as well as Asian elephants, rhinoceros, Himalayan black bears and Ganges dolphins.
Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary
The Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is in Northeast Bhutan, and is one of the larger protected areas in the country. Since 1993 it’s been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Conservation Area. From wetland vegetation to alpine forests, it’s the perfect trekking and birdwatching location. The diverse landscapes are a product of the massive changes in elevation in and around the Trashiyangtse District, going from 1200 to more than 6000 metres.
Jomotsangkha National Park
If there weren’t already enough rare animals within the borders of Bhutan, scurrying through the Jomotsangkha National Park is the pygmy hog. The smallest of the protected land spaces in Bhutan is also home to one of the rarest animals. A severely threatened species, these little hogs were once on the brink of extinction. A breeding and conservation program brought them back to a manageable and growing population. Jomotsangkha is a prime example that the size of a park in no way equals the importance of its efforts.
Jigme Dorji National Park
Jigme Dorji National Park is one of the largest in Bhutan, spanning over five districts. Because of the vastness in size and diversity in altitude, Jigme Dorji is home to a widest variety of species, from the snow leopard to the red panda. It’s especially significant as it is where the national animal lives (the takin), where the national flower blooms (the poppy), where the national bird flies (the raven), and where the national tree grows (the cypress). Plus, more than 30 species of butterfly thrive here.
Article by Abbie Synan