Forest protection in Thrumshingla National Park, Bhutan

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southern Asia > Bhutan

Man washing hands from water that is diverged by wooden troughs made of hollowed branches from a stream to where people can use it. Bhutan.
© WWF-Canon / Roel A. BURGLER

Summary

Located in eastern Bhutan, Thrumshingla National Park contains spectacular mountains and rich biodiversity, including alpine to sub-tropical forests. It is also home to red pandas, snow leopards and tigers.

To protect this unique mountain ecosystem, WWF is supporting park authorities and local communities on environmental management and sustainable use of natural resources. To reduce pressure on the forests, villages in and around the park have been supplied with solar panels and roofing material. Livestock gazing and crop destruction by wildlife are also being addressed.

Background

Thrumshingla National Park (TNP) is one of the 9 protected area systems of Bhutan and was gazetted in 1998. It is located in the central part of Bhutan and contains spectacular mountains with a rich cultural and biological diversity.

The park is unique as it contains examples of all the different vegetation zones within Bhutan. It contains some 622 species of plants belonging to 140 families including 152 medicinal plant species, 21 species that are endemic to Bhutan, and one globally threatened species. It has more than 68 mammals and some 341 species of birds that include globally threatened restricted and rare species. It is also the centerpiece for the contiguous distribution of tiger populations in the country. Elevation ranges are from less than 1000m in the South and more than 4000m in the North.

The park and its peripheral areas are settled by the communities of 8 geogs (blocks) of 4 districts who subsist on farming and livestock rearing. It is therefore widely used by these communities including year round cattle grazing. The park is linked to Royal Manas and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Parks through biological corridors. However, these corridors lack baseline information for effective management.

Objectives

- Strengthen effective landscape management of the protected area network and biological corridors in the temperate broadleaf forest ecoregion.

- Link and enhance protected areas (LINKPA).

Solution

The management plan for TNP has already been developed. Therefore, the main focus of the project is to help in the implementation of the activities prescribed in the 5-year management plan. Implementation on-site will be guided by a local committee comprising local authorities and the park staff, while the project will be guided by the Project Steering Committee at the national level. This committee is comprised of relevant government ministries and donor agencies.

The project builds on infrastructure development activities to government approved contractors, while integrated conservation and development programme (ICDP) activities are designed and implemented in close consultation with beneficiaries, extension agents and local authorities. In addition to project staff, WWF staff monitors project implementation on a quarterly basis. The observations and findings are shared with all partners, allowing necessary adjustments to be made.

Achievement

- Prior to establishment of park office, the park area was under the administrative control of the Territorial Divisional Forest Officers. The park office is gradually building its staff strength and taking over the park area under park administration so that park management becomes more effective. At end June 2004, 5 geogs out of 9 have come under total administrative control of the park office. 17 park staff trained on park management and anti-poaching activities, 6 senior government officials and 4 local community leaders were sent on a study tour to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to understand good park management practices including sustainable financing plan in the developed countries. The park manager underwent a month-long course on biodiversity management in the Smithsonian University in the United States.

- An anti-poaching unit has been established at the park office to oversee all anti-poaching activities and compounding offences. A Village Informant System has also been established through which information on land encroachment and poaching activities, are relayed to park management by the appointed village informers; the village informers are rewarded for genuine information; and the offenders are penalized according the existing government rules.

- Completed socio-economic studies in the corridors, and a study on grazing in the park and its corridors. Summer and winter grazing grounds, cattle migratory routes, transit camps, and major feed/fodder species are identified and mapped. The findings from these studies will form basis for the formulation of regulatory framework, demarcation of park boundary and zoning of the corridors. “Resoops” or Village Forest Guards assigned in each geog maintain an important link between the park and local communities in disseminating park regulations and forestry rules.

- Overgrazing by cattle and yaks is a major problem in the park. In close collaboration with the district extension staff, park trained more than 46 farmers on livestock management practices in a 5-day training programme. The farmers were taught about pasture development, cattle management, improved diary farming, fodder conservation, weeding and slashing of weeds, use of crop residues as diet supplement for the cattle, orchard and pasture development, control of disease outbreak, and plantation of napier and gautemala fodder species. The project also supplied 3 jersey bulls to enhance the breed improvement of livestock so that farmers choose to rear fewer but more productive heads of cattle. Further, the project also helped the community in developing 25 acres of improved pasture for rotational and paddock grazing.

- Crop depredation by wildlife is another major concern for poaching and hunting of wild animals. To better manage the potential human-wildlife conflicts, the project is supporting local communities to take up low volume high value crops. Over 5,000 walnut seedlings were raised within the communities and supplied to the rest of the farmers through the extension network.

- The project, in coordination with the Mushroom Development Centre, conducted 2 training sessions on sustainable mushroom harvesting for local communities and forestry staff in Bumthang Dzongkhag.

- The villages in and around the park heavily depend on the park for timber, roofing materials and fuel wood. To reduce the pressure on natural resources, 5 villages were supplied with solar panels and 60 households were supplied corrugated galvanized iron (CGI) sheets for roofing.

- The project continuously works on education and awareness in collaboration with local schools. Further, the project implemented greening activities in 2 schools at Tang. The schools campus were fenced to keep off stray cattle from destroying plantations by the nature clubs and flower gardens in these schools.

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