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Bhutan National Park

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The protected areas system of Bhutan was initiated in the 1960’s, and then covered almost the entire southern and northern regions of the country. In 1993, as a financing condition for the Bhutan Trust Fund, the parks system was revised for better ecological representation and realistic management. Bhutan today has 10 formally protected areas covering 16,396.43 square kilometers, which is more than a quarter of the country.

Since 1992, the Fund has spent over $6 million to build institutional and human capacity in these parks, and related central government agencies. This includes recruitment of 189 field staff, training 24 post-graduate specialist degrees and at least 389 short scientific courses.

The parks of Bhutan are described briefly below, focusing on key features and their underlying importance to our natural heritage and conservation efforts.

Bhutan’s Crown Jewel, the Manas National Park represents the largest example of tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems in Bhutan.

This park has only recently been opened to the public and offers  thousands of animal and plant species, many of which are globally endangered, it is not only the most diverse protected area in the Kingdom but also noted as one of the world’s biologically outstanding parks.

Conservation showpiece of the Kingdom, Royal Manas National Park is the oldest park in Bhutan.  Covering 1,057 square kilometers, it is strategically located between Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in the north, and Manas National Park in India to the south, the latter an important World Heritage Site. Thus, Royal Manas is an integral part of a protected areas complex ranging from 150 to 2,600 meters, that includes habitats from lowland tropical forests to permanent ice fields. The park is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, Elephant, Gaur (Bos gaurus), and four rare species — Golden langur (Presbytis geei), Pygmy hog (Sus salvanius), Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus), and Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica), in addition to being the only park with the Greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Asiatic wild  buffalo (Bubalus arnee). 362 species of birds — including four species of Hornbills (i.e., Rufous-necked, Wreathed, Pied and Great Indian) — have been confirmed. Three species of Mahseer, the rare migratory game-fish — Deep bodied mahseer (Tor tor), Golden mahseer (Tor putitora), and Chocolate mahseer or Katle (Acrossocheilus hexangonolepis) — inhabit the Manas river, which is formed by the Mangde, Chamkhar, Kuri and Dangme rivers. Several plant species are valued as food crops, while a number are of commercial, medicinal, and religious significance. Thus, the park serves as a genetic depository for these valuable plants. Royal Manas was one of the earliest recipients of the Fund’s project interventions in the early 1990’s, through support for infrastructure development and baseline biological and socio-economic assessments. Bhutan’s first park management plan was prepared for Royal Manas, and guided management interventions in other parks.  About 5,000 people live in remote, isolated villages within the park.

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