Flora & Fauna

When people think of Bhutan, the mighty Himalayan Mountains comes to most people’s mind. While Bhutan is in the Himalayan belt, the altitude ranges from over 7,500 Meters to as low as 150 Meters in the Southern Belt bordering India. With such a vast variation of altitude in a small country of just over 38,000 Sq Kms, Bhutan’s ecosystem is one of the most rich and diverse in the world. Bhutan pristine environment offers spectacular biodiversity, earning it a name as one of the world’s ten most important biodiversity hotspots.

The Bhutanese people and government consider environmental conservation as one of the most important aspects in its development philosophy. Environment conservation is one the four main pillars of its development philosophy of Gross National Happiness – i) Socio-economic development, ii) Environmental conservation, Cultural Preservation and iv) Good Governance. With the importance accorded to environmental conservation, the new Constitution of Bhutan 2008 states that forest cover in the country at any given time in the future must not fall below 60 % of the total land area. Currently, about 72 % of the total land area is under forest cover with 26 % of the land area falling under protected areas comprising of Four National Parks. As a result of the effort the country puts in conserving its environment, Bhutan offers a wonderful raw and unexploited environment that is generally very much appreciated by international travelers.

Flora

An ample variety of plants grow in Bhutan : over 5400 species, including 300 species of medicinal plants and over 50 species of rhododendrons.  Of the more than 600 species of orchid, most are commonly found up to 2,100m, although some hardy species thrive even above 3,700m. Tropical evergreen forests growing below 800m are repositories of unique bio-diversity. The next vegetation zone are the subtropical grasslands and forests found between 900m and 1,800m. The tree rhododendron is found in this zone, along with forest of oak, walnut and sal, and numerous variety of orchid.

Temperate zone is a region of great diversity, largely influenced by the elevation. The tropical vegetation of the lower zones gives way to dark forests of oak, birch, maple, magnolia and laurel. Above 2,400 altitude is the home of spruce, yew, and weeping cypress, and higher still, growing up to the tree line, is the east Himalayan fir.  Between the tree line and the snow line at about 5,500m are low shrubs, rhododendrons, Himalayan grasses and flowering herbs.

Bhutan’s national flower, Blue Poppy grows above the tree line 3,500 – 4,500m elevation and can be found atop some high passes from the far eastern parts of the country all the way across to the west. 

Fauna

A wide range of rare and endangered animals can also be found  because of its unique setting and relatively un-exploited environment, Bhutan probably possesses the greatest biological diversity of any country of its size in Asia. Due to the countries conservation efforts and its unspoiled natural environment Bhutan supports thriving populations of some of the rarest animals on earth and has thus been classified as one of the last biodiversity hotspots in the world.

Along its southern border, the narrow tropical and subtropical belt supports the Asiatic elephant, greater one-horned rhinoceros, gaur, wild water buffalo, hog deer, tiger, clouded leopard, hornbill, trogon and other mammals and birds characteristic of indomalayan species. Only 150 kilometers to the north, high Himalayan fauna include the blue sheep, takin, musk deer, snow leopard, wolf and other species characteristic of the Palearctic realm.

So far as 770 species of birds have been recorded in Bhutan which reflects the Kingdom’s wide range of agro-ecological environments – from subtropical to alpine and its location at the northern edge of the Zoogeographical oriental region and the permeable and fluid border with China. Also country is famous for its over wintering populations (about 350 birds) of the vulnerable black-necked crane in the valleys of Phobjikha, Bomdeling and Gyetsa. 

Bhutan is also home to about 16 bird species that are endangered worldwide. These include the White bellied heron, Pallas Fish eagle and Blyth’s King fisher to name a few. Phobjikha valley in Wangdue Phodrang and Bomdeling in Trashi Yangtse are also two especially important locations of the endangered Black Necked Cranes.

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