The highest in the last three decades 

The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) has counted 625 Black-Necked Cranes (BNC) in the country, the highest recorded to date.

The annual counting, which was done on February 2 recorded about 154 juveniles.

This is an increase of 70 cranes from 555 BNC in 2016-2017 winter periods.

RSPN in collaboration with Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) and community members were involved in the counting conducted between 6am to 7:30am when cranes are still at the roosting place.

A Eurasian crane was also spotted in Phobjikha.

Senior Project officer for Black-Necked Crane Conservation with RSPN, Jigme Tshering, said the numbers of the Black-Necked Cranes is increasing. “The number of juvenile cranes means that cranes had successful breeding. It also indicates the presence of a good habitat.”

He said that the reason for the increase could be attributed to awareness and outreach programmes on the endangered species. “Globally, the count of the Black-Necked Crane has also increased and reached over 11,000 today. It could also be because of the better conservation initiatives taken in the country.”

Some scientists around the world attribute the increase in numbers to global warming adding that glacier melting creates wetlands, which means larger breeding spaces, he said.

However, he said that the country has its issues to tackle such as predators and annual flooding in Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse when it came to conservation. “Although the sanctuary maintains the foraging areas annually, flood not only washes roosting areas but also the foraging areas.”

While in Bumthang, he said, encroachment into habitats, and increasing population and development activities are some issues for the cranes.

However, he said it was doubtful if the trend of increasing BNC numbers would be sustainable.

The first documentation of BNC during the winter periods between 1986 and 1987 recorded 370 BNC, a decrease of about 275 cranes.

Jigme Tshering said that in places such as Phobjikha, pictures of the cranes were taken for more accurate counting.

In the recently man-made pond in Uruk, Bumthang, four birds were sighted of which two were adults and the other two juveniles.

Phobjikha had the highest BNC count with 504 including a Eurasian crane, followed by Bumdeling with 102 cranes.

Khotokha recorded nine, Bumthang eight and Lhuentse with three cranes.

Rinchen Zangmo