Effective conservation programmes, priority inventories and road as a resource protection asset were some of the considerations made for better management of the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary (PWS).

This is according to the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) report on the sanctuary.

The assessment was carried out between December 2014 and February 2015. It was initially conducted to study about the proposed road that would have crossed through the PWS. However, the project was cancelled in 2015.

It includes information about the forest, bird, mammal, fish and assessment of special habitats, among others.

The priority areas include future study on white-bellied heron along the Longa and Phipsoo rivers to understand the role of the sanctuary to conserve the species. Although it was learnt that there was no heron-breeding habitat, the assessment hinted at the crucial role that the biodiversity played in conserving the species.

The report stated that the priority inventory included the scale of illegal tree harvest along the Indo-Bhutan border that will help form strategies to deter such invasions. “Assuming that only half of the documented level of poaching (22.6 trees per hectare) occurs elsewhere along the 15km band, and within a conservative 150m wide band, illegal tree poaching to date could easily have resulted in as many as 2,500 trees being cut,” it stated.

The priority inventory of the fisheries was also included as an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-listed species were found during the assessment, which could be essential to the ecosystem.

According to the report, a future road construction along the degraded area would provide an opportunity for increased resource protection along the western half of the sanctuary owing to illegal timber harvest.

The report stated that although the Phipsoo road was not in its best condition, it apparently hindered the illegal entrance into the sanctuary. The road would help officials or rangers conduct extensive patrolling to reduce illegal intrusions that include poaching and destruction to PWS resources.

The report stated that the current patrol efforts were not enough to stop ongoing poaching activities.

Construction of additional infrastructures such as observation towers and anti-poaching would protect the area. “Construction of outposts in the Longa and Pingkhua river vicinities will be vital to resource protection, especially an outpost along the Longa River with its proximity to white-bellied heron critical habitat,” the report stated.

The report also included the need to examine invasive species spread through grasslands as these species could degrade the grasslands and deteriorate the habitat.

An evaluated management approach is crucial to restore the grasslands, according to the report.

Possibilities of ecotourism programmes within the sanctuary such as guided bird watching in the future would help fund the PWS’s conservation plans. “PWS has potential for integrating passive education and interpretation of resources.”

Rinchen Zangmo