Chencho Dema

Punakha—In a remarkable event, people in Sedchena village, located in Goenshari Gewog, Punakha, were amazed to see two Gaur, also known as Bos gaurus, a creature usually found in the warm southern foothills of the country.

Spotting them at such a high altitude is extremely rare and unexpected.

Locally called Relang, Gaurs have been listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1986. These Indian Bison, the largest among wild cattle, are also present in Bhutan, being native to South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Lhab Tshering, the Tshogpa of Sachaed-Nang Chiwog, mentioned that two weeks ago, a Gaur was sighted in the upper part of the village.

“He later recounted that on the evening of March 10, while driving back home from the gewog center, he spotted two Gaurs at the lower end of the village,” he said. 

One week earlier, a man was gored by one of the Gaurs while trying to drive it away from his cow shed out of concern for his cattle’s safety. The sighting of the Gaurs in the vicinity was promptly reported to the forest officials. 

The Tshogpa also observed that these two Gaurs are only seen during the evening hours, as they are absent during the daytime.

Meanwhile, discussions among the residents on WeChat continue regarding whether the appearance of a new species in the village signifies a positive or negative omen.

Rinzin Dorji, the acting Chief Forest Officer of Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP), said that it is unusual to find Gaurs at such high altitudes. He mentioned that in the last two years, there has been a noticeable change in the Gaurs’ movement patterns.

In 2021, a solitary Gaur was spotted in Barshong village in Naro Gewog, and later, the same Gaur was seen in Laya. At present, forest officials are actively monitoring the two Gaurs and assessing any potential risks they might pose to the local residents.

A forest official says that the migration of Gaurs to higher elevations may be influenced by climate change and the hunting and poaching of Gaurs in border regions, compelling them to seek safety at higher altitudes.

He said that Gaurs could be exploring new habitats or grazing areas, showcasing their adaptability to colder climates.