Beautiful, exotic and with an astoundingly diverse landscape, the Kingdom of Bhutan is a true frontier of the Himalayas – a staunchly independent country which, even today, is seldom-visited and remains shrouded in mystery. Framed by the glacial altitudes of the Himalayas, in more recent times this region has found favour with avid nature lovers, who come from all over the world to experience its vast array of endemic flora and fauna. |
Those who do venture to this tiny kingdom will find a destination with a truly unique ancient culture, and a terrain that encompasses unspoilt forests, rugged valleys and wide-ranging altitudes – from 750m to over 7,500m. These varied habitats and the differing microclimates that come with them support an amazing profusion of botanical species (more than 5,400) - including flowers, fruit trees and bamboo - which, in turn, provide the perfect food sources for the Bhutan wildlife.
Diverse and Protected
Being so bio-diverse (it's one of the world's top ten most bio-diverse regions) means a great number of species survive here –there are more than 770 avian species alone. Nearly 30% of the country is protected, with the establishment of conservation areas, national parks, reserves and designated sanctuaries. In contrast to some other countries, these have been specifically set up to protect the Bhutan wildlife, habitats and ecosystems rather than as a means to attract the tourism dollar – in fact, no more than several thousand are permitted to enter the country each year.
For those lucky enough to be planning a visit, here is an overview of what Bhutan wildlife may be encountered in the three distinctly different climactic zones.
Lowlands: Thriving in the dense hardwood forests and lush tropical habitat of the lowlands are species including the Sloth Bear, Royal Bengal Tiger, Hispid Hare, Clouded Leopard, One-horned Rhino and Golden Langur.
Temperate Zones: The sprawling broadleaf, conifer and pine forests of the temperate central zone are home to the famous Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, Barking Deer and Sambar, along with large numbers of wild pigs and squirrels.
Alpine Habitats: The high-altitude north of the country, where the Himalayan ranges dominate the landscape, is the domain of the Snow Leopard, antelope, Himalayan Musk Deer, marmot, yak, Blue Sheep and Tibetan Wolf.
Avian Species: The country's position between the eastern and western biogeographical zones of the world sees it blessed with a vibrant abundance of avifauna. Among the many species that may be seen are the Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Red headed Parrot Bill, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Wood Snipe, Rumped Honey Guide, Blyth’s King Fisher, White bellied Heron, Grey bellied Tragopan, Chestnut-breasted Partridge,Ward’s Trogon, Satyr Tragopan, Purple Cochoa, Blyth’s Trogon, and the endangered Black-necked Crane.
A Country Committed to Conservation
Despite it being one of the world's smallest countries, Bhutan's commitment to conservation is outstanding and sustained – which is excellent news for its high profile rare or endangered species that include Himalayan Black Bears, Royal Bengal Tigers, Takins, Barking Deer, Red Pandas and Golden Langurs.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Bhutan wildlife. As a passionate lover of nature, Marissa chooses the expert-led organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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