Coinciding with the birth anniversary of His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in partnership with READ Bhutan released ‘’Agay Phurba and the Dancing Cranes”, a story about black-necked cranes.

In December last year, 15 youths, aged between 12-15, in Trashiyangtse visited Bumdeling valley. This picturesque valley falls in the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and is one of the most popular winter homes of the endangered, Black-necked Cranes. During this trip, the children met Agay Phurba and learnt about this magnificent crane species.

Based on their conversation with Agay Phurba, the students came up with the book.

Agay Phurba has been taking care of the cranes’ roosting ground for about 40 years now. In the story, he talks about the challenges and threats facing crane habitats because of developmental activities and human encroachment.

The week-long story-telling workshop, documentation and the publication of the book were carried out by Bhutan’s new eco-tourism project, “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Tourism Sector in Bhutan” in partnership with READ Bhutan. The storybook initiative is being implemented by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, with technical support from READ Bhutan, and is co-financed.

One of the main objectives of the storytelling workshop was to document the existing stories and knowledge in the community on conservation, endangered species and human-wildlife coexistence, by the youth from the community. The initiative also aims to engage youths in conservation by teaching them how to tell powerful stories around biodiversity species found in their communities.

The story and artworks are being compiled into a book in English and Dzongkha. The copies will be published and distributed to all schools in the country, and also made available online.

The black-necked cranes are revered in Bhutan as heavenly birds. To locals, their arrival signifies good luck and bountiful harvest. Their presence also indicates healthy agricultural land and its surrounding ecosystems, including the wetlands, ponds and water bodies.

The Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary is also known for butterflies and is the only place in Bhutan where Bhutan’s national butterfly, Ludlow’s Bhutan Glory, also known as Ludlow’s Bhutan Swallowtail ( Bhutanitis ludlowi) is found. The butterfly is commonly seen around Tobrang in Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary in the months of August and September.

Tourism Council of Bhutan launched the GEF7 Ecotourism Project “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation into the Tourism Sector in Bhutan” in September, last year. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with technical support from UNDP, the project is being implemented as part of the Tourism Flagship Programme.

The project is expected to bring about transformational changes in the rural development landscape. It will also help diversify the agriculture dominant rural economy by promoting wildlife-based economy, boosting domestic tourism, creating employment opportunities and increasing community resilience and connection to nature. One of the aims of the ecotourism project is also to develop a unique ecotourism brand in Trashi Yangtse around cranes, butterflies and other forms of biodiversity.

READ Bhutan is a non-profit organization established in 2008 that builds community libraries and resource centers and uses them as a platform for community development.

Contributed by 

Sonam Dema 

GEF7 Ecotourism Project, TCB