Chhimi Dema 

The Bhutan BirdLife Society (BBLS) conducted assessment and monitoring of important bird areas (IBA), and found that those in Thimphu, Shaba, Chelela, Lhuentse, and Samtse are the most degraded areas.

IBA is an area identified as being important for the conservation of bird populations based on an internationally agreed set of criteria.

There are 23 IBAs in the country mapped by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature in 2004.

Thimphu and Paro wetlands, Ada lake or Punatsangchhu, Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, Chelela, Phobjikha and Khatekha valleys, Royal Manas National Park, among others, are some of the IBAs in the country.

The BBLS assessed the IBAs in June this year.

An official from BBLS said that the most degraded area among the four areas assessed is Thimphu. “Town expansion has caused the degradation of the bird area,” he said.

When the IBA assessment was conducted in 2004, there were wetlands in Thimphu hosting birds such as the wood snipe, the official said. “Those wetland areas are occupied by houses now.”

Wood snipes breed in wet alpine meadows and bogs, and winters in forest pools and marshes. The bird species is classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

“It is not possible to restore Thimphu IBA because of the existing settlements. Much of the marshy areas to host the birds are no more,” the official said.

The alternative is to create a new habitat for the birds, he said.

Tshalumaphey in Babesa has been recognised as an area to create a new bird habitat.

The official said the BBLS is consulting a botanist to see what type of plant or tree would be suitable for the 10 acres of land in Tshalumaphey.  “Even if we do not sight birds like the wood snipe in the area, it would serve as a habitat for other birds in the future.”

Another important IBA is in Shaba because it hosts many water and migratory birds, as well as birds new to Bhutan, the official said.

“The BBLS is negotiating with relevant agencies to ensure that there is less disturbance for the waterbirds in Shaba,” he said.

Through the project, BBLS will also publish an updated status and national distribution of birds in Bhutan that would serve as a field guide for bird watchers.

The official said that efforts to restore IBA are important to conserve the bird species, promote tourism, and augment youth interest in birds.

BBLS is a conservation society focusing on the conservation of birds in Bhutan, as well as the protection of their habitats and IBA in the country.

Edited by Tshering Palden