Flora and Fauna
Today Bhutan is one of the last remaining biodiversity hotspots (among the ten global hotspots) in the world with the supreme opulence of flora and fauna. The forest cover has now increased to over 72.5% of the country and 60% of the kingdom’s total area is selected as protected nature reserves, to designate more than 40% of its territory as national parks, reserves and other protected areas, and most recently to identify a further nine percent of land area as biodiversity corridors linking the protected areas. The constitution of Bhutan also states that at least 60% of the land must be covered by the forest. Bhutan has a number of progressive environmental policies that have caused the head of the UNFCCC to call it an “inspiration and role model for the world on how economies and different countries can address climate change while at the same time improving the life of the citizen.”
More than 5,400 species of plants are found in Bhutan. It contains more than 60% of the common plant species found in the Eastern Himalayas. In addition to this, approximately 45 species of Rhododendrons and over 300 types of medicinal plants are found in Bhutan. Some of the plants found commonly in Bhutan are such as Daphne, Junipers, Magnolias, Orchids, Edelweiss, Gentian, various medicinal herbs, Giant Rhubarb, Pine, Oak trees, Blue Poppies etc.
Bhutan has a rich primate life, with rare species such as the Golden Langur. A variant Assamese Macaque has also been recorded, which is regarded by some authorities as a new species, Macaca Munzala. The Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, hispid hare and the sloth bear live in the lush tropical lowland and hardwood forests in the south. In the temperate zone, grey langur, tiger, goral and serow are found in mixed conifer, broadleaf and pine forests. Fruit-bearing trees and bamboo provide habitat for the Himalayan black bear, red panda, squirrel, sambar, wild pig and barking deer. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north are home to the snow leopard, blue sheep, marmot, Tibetan wolf, antelope, Himalayan musk deer and the Takin (national animal of Bhutan). The endangered wild water buffalo occurs in southern Bhutan in very limited numbers. Bhutan is home to the highest altitude inhabiting Tigers in the world and they are commonly found throughout the country.
More than 770 species of bird have been recorded in Bhutan. Moreover, 57% of Bhutan’s globally threatened birds and 90% of the country’s rare birds are dependent on forests. Bhutan has about 415 resident bird species. These birds are altitudinal refugees, moving up and down the mountains depending upon the seasons and weather conditions. Of about 50 species of birds that migrate during the winters are the buntings, waders, ducks, thrushes and the birds of prey. Some 40 species are partial migrants and they include species such as swifts, cuckoos, bee-eaters, fly catchers and warblers. Visitors can experience the breathtaking flora and fauna of Bhutan through sightseeing tours or by boarding on treks and hikes. The globally endangered white-winged duck has been added recently to Bhutan’s bird list.