A majority of Phobjikha residents support conservation of black-necked cranes.

According to a study on conservation of black-necked cranes and its perceived tradeoffs in Phobjikha Valley, 75 percent of the 222 respondents in Phobjikha agreed conservation of the cranes while 27 percent felt that interference due to conservation was not severe at all.

A graduate from the College of Natural Resources, Jigme Wangchuk shared his findings at the fourth annual research symposium organised by Bhutan Ecological Society on December 2.

The study was conducted to find out how conservation approaches impacted the community of Phobjikha valley and how the community supports the conservation efforts.

Black-necked crane is the only alpine crane species and is classified as vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are about 11,000 cranes around the world according to World Wildlife Fund.

Jigme Wangchuk said conservation efforts did not have much impact on people and that people had access to basic developmental amenities such as access to farm roads, schools, and basic health unit.  “There was no restriction on farming practices due to conservation efforts. People are free to use agro chemicals and any kind of techniques for farming.”

However, only seven percent agreed to chemical free farming while 41 percent disagreed.

Jigme Wangchuk said this might be because the main source of income for 94 percent of the respondents is potato farming. “It’s the main source of income for them and they cannot compromise their income in the name of conservation,” he said. “People were willing to go for agro-chemical free farming if they are incentivised for the forgone income opportunities.”

The chemicals are mainly used to kill the potato plants for easier harvesting.

The study also found that 12 percent felt access to electricity was severe as they faced irregularities in power supply due to underground electric circuit fitting. “About 13 percent of respondents felt restriction on their mobility,” Jigme Wangchuk said.

He said people perceived that waste generation has increased by 50 percent and the use of mineral fertiliser by 64 percent, which could threaten the conservation of the cranes. “Despite monthly waste management activities, they felt there is deterioration of waste management activities.”

Karma Cheki