No nature lover will regret visiting Bhutan; A Q&A with Mr. Ugyen Thinley. (Part II)

Contd. from Part I

While the global biodiversity is diminishing, bhutan’s biodiversity is thriving due to its pristine environment. Could you name some of the rarest and threatened species of flora and fauna found in the forests of Bhutan?

With the most diverse and rich ecosystem, the forests of Bhutan are a home to impressive range of plants and animal species, amongst which some are the rarest on earth.

Golden Langur ( a species of monkey) and Bhutan Takin (the national animal of Bhutan) are two of many endangered and rare animals in Bhutan.

Acronema nervosum (family; Umbelliferae), Agapetes bhutanica (family; Ericaceae), Leptodermis amoena (family; Rubiaceae) etc are a few of the rarest and endemic plant species found in Bhutan.

You must have encountered many such rare plants and animals during your tenure as forester, would you mind sharing some of your prized memories with us?

In November, 2012, on my way from Monggar to Bumthang, I was very delighted to see a Bhutan Takin ( Budorcas taxicolor) standing right in front of us on the road at Thrumshingla Pass (about 3700 masl). The fully grown bull was looking challengingly at us and it posed for some time to the video camera, when my son took some shots. Later, when we handed over the video to the foresters of Lamai Goenpa, Bumthang, we found out, that it was the first ever recording of Bhutan Takin in and around Thrumshingla areas.

Night travel between Palreela and Sha-chhuzomsa in Wangduephodrang, never happens without seeing a tiger or a leopard or a Sambhar (deer) along the road. Tiger and leopard are quick to disappear when they see the light. Bears and Gorals crossing the road during the day in these areas is also a common sight.

I once saw a pair of beautiful Sambhar (deer) grazing peacefully at night, on the roadside in Korila forest in Monggar.

Your profession must have required you to travel extensively and explore the wilderness of Bhutan, would you like to share any messages or experiences or tips that would help nature travellers out there who are planning to visit Bhutan?

I recollect the frostbite that I got on my nose while on an expedition from Paro to Thimphu in July 1982, along the northernmost route, crossing three high mountains called Bongteyla, Nelaila and Yaklaila ( 11,500 ft. to more than 12,000 ft. high). It was a journey made to finalize the trekking route for Department of Tourism (present day Tourism Council of Bhutan).

We drove till the road end in Paro, our journey started with a steep climb towards the high hilltop of Thombula. We were equipped with garlic, flakes of dry yak meat etc, incase one of us developed high altitude sickness. The symptoms of high altitude sickness includes mild headache, feeling thirsty or sleepy even while walking, lethargy, nausea etc and it can become very fatal, if the person experiencing such symptoms do not descend immediately to lower land. However and fortunately, none of us got it.

Among those high mountains, the Yaklaila pass, which is closer to Thimphu, looks very beautiful and is dotted with a small lake each on both sides. These two lakes, one on either side looks like the eyes of a Yak and makes the mountain pass look like a head of a Yak. That is how this mountain pass got the name, the Yaklaila.

The Mo-chhu river which flows by the left side of Punakha Dzong, starts from the lake on right side of this pass and the Wang-chhu river which flows by the side of Trashi-Chhoe Dzong in Thimphu starts from the lake, that is on the left side of this pass.

Bhutan is the only carbon negative country in the world, which absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces and has pledged to remain a carbon neutral country. Despite its success in conserving the environment and having made no contributions to climate change, the impacts of climate change continues to affect Bhutan. Would you like to say anything in this regard?

It is needless to say that our country is not able to escape the effects of global warming due to climate change taking place at a very fast rate on our globe. We cannot rely on the good coverage of forest area in our country alone to fight this global issue and every nation in the world must really do their part to address this urgent concern.

I cannot speak for other countries but our country is trying its best to convince the world, that every nation needs to take immediate and most appropriate measures against climate change to safeguard the peace and prosperity of the earth. I do not have the details but I know that Bhutan made its points to the worlds body, in 2009 Copenhagen conference and at the Paris world meet in 2015.

Meanwhile, we find that many years old glaciers in our mountains, which are the source of Bhutan’s rivers, are melting due to the effects of climate change. One such visible evident is the devastating glacier lake outburst flood that occurred in Pho-chhu river of Punakha in 1994 causing loss of human and animal lives, massive damage to many properties and agricultural land. One of the glacial lakes in the catchments areas of Pho-chhu overflowed when the very thick underground glaciers around the lake lost its ground and sank to the bottom of the lake.

Climate change is a reality and I hope that one day (hopefully sooner) every country in the world will understand how serious its effects are and come up with the necessary measures.

Lastly, I would like to request you to list three reasons that makes Bhutan the ultimate destination for nature travellers.

The greenery of Bhutan – no nature lover will regret visiting Bhutan. We have forests in the hills, along the streams and rivers, along the national highways and every where. The entire country is green with impressive range of beautiful scenery, from snow covered mountains and glacial lakes to subtropical evergreen mountains and plains in the south. Hot springs, water falls and clear meandering rivers also dot the unspoiled landscape.

The rich biodiversity of Bhutan – makes it a great place to see many exotic and threatened plants and animals species in their natural habitat. It is an incredible destination for plant & wildlife enthusiasts, butterfly enthusiasts, birding enthusiasts etc to name a few. In Zhemgang Dzongkhag for instance, one can spot not just the unique birds but side by side, also the rare animal in the world, the Golden Langur.

Many Outdoor Activities – The beautiful unspoiled nature definitely makes Bhutan ideal for many outdoor activities. There are trails all over the country that are great for long walks, day hikes or arduous trekking. Campings in the woods or by the river or picnics in the outdoors are some of our favourite outdoor activities. The beauty of Bhutan can also be explored and enjoyed by River rafting and mountain biking.

We admire being out in the nature as much as you, if you have an experience in mind, we are here to guide you plan a trip to explore the wilderness of Bhutan. All you need to do is mail us at /