432nd bird species for RMNP

A seventh entry has been made to the park’s faunal diversity in the last seven years.

The Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) in Gelephu, on June 5 this year, made a triumphant discovery of the presence of Hodgson’s Frogmouth (Batrachostomus hodgsoni) that took the park’s avian faunal diversity to yet another new level.

Oblivious of its presence until recently, the park’s new bird record was sighted at Gomphu in Zhemgang which falls within the park’s jurisdiction.

Gomphu is some 60 kilometers from Zhemgang under Trong gewog. The area, connected by the Gomphu-Panbang highway, falls under Gomphu range of the park management.

According to park official Yeshey Wangdi, the sighting is a very critical addition to the park’s bird diversity since the park already provided home to 431 species of birds. “Such faunal diversity within the confinement of an area of 1057 km2 is a huge concentration,” he said.

He further stated that the finding is more significant because it confirms that the breed of species in the locality and for the first time in Bhutan.

RMNP also reported to have recorded many new sightings of wildlife species occurring within the park within a short span of seven years. For instance, eight new records which included three mammals and five birds, was the first time sighting within the park in the last seven years.

Park manager Tenzin Wangchuk said that the park’s faunal diversity of 58 mammals, 426 species of birds were confirmed by 2006 Rapid Biodiversity Survey, that the park carried out. “However, the new records of both mammal and birds remained unpublished,” he added.

The three new species of mammals, the park claims to have been recorded in last few years, are the Asiatic Brush-tailed porcupine (Antherurus macrourus), Chinese (or Small-toothed) Ferret-badger (Melogale moschata), and Hodgson’s Giant Flying squirrel (Petaurista magnificus).

With addition of the three new mammals, the park also boasts of 61 species of mammals.

Similarly, the recent new additions of birds were also done within the park that included Black Baza (A vi ceda leuphotes), Water Cock (Gallicrex cinerea), Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus) and Malayan Night heron (Gorsachius melanolophus).

The park manager also claimed the new sightings are not exhaustive, and over 530 bird species is expected to be thriving within RMNP. The remaining species believed to be thriving remains to be recorded, which the park is striving to record over the years to come.

With the fund support from World Wildlife fund (WWF) and Royal Government of Bhutan, plans are in pipeline to conduct a Rapid Biodiversity Survey and Socio-economic survey to update their management plan in July 2014. Such activity will entail an in-depth scientific research on species as well as the habitat. The park expects to record more species. “With such management interventions, RMNP hopes to explore more new records of species and create reliable database in the future,” Tenzin Wangchuk said.

Meanwhile, the latest sighting of Hodgson’s Frogmouth is said to be a huge motivation for the park to find more species. Taxonomically, the bird belongs to Podargidae family. Elsewhere in the world, the bird lives in countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, where it is known to thrive in temperate forests of these countries.

When it was first established, RMNP was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1966 and was upgraded to a national park later in 1993. The park was later extended to link to the Black Mountain National Park and was renamed as Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park.

The park covers 1057 km2 areas which include three dzongkhags of Zhemgang, Sarpang and Pemagatshel. From among the protected areas in Bhutan, RMNP is also considered as one of the significant, basically because it shares the international boundary with the Indian state of Assam and is also contiguous with the Manas National Park (Manas Tiger Reserve) of India World Heritage Site.

The park is also connected to other protected areas of Bhutan such as Singye Jigme Wangchuck National Park to the north-west and biological corridors link with Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary in the south-west, Thrumshingla National Park in the northern centre and Khaling Nature Reserve in the south-east.

The park constitutes of diverse habitat areas that are tropical monsoon forest interspersed with swathes of natural grasslands and wide river-beds along the southern border. The lowest hills of park are clothed in tropical moist forest, which gives way temperate broadleaf forests in the higher elevations. A dense oak forest dominates the higher ridges. The park can be accessed from Bhutan via partially motorable road and also from the India state of Assam.

The park strives to maintain ecological integrity embedded in a social, economic and cultural environment of the park through conservation and management of its natural bio-diversity in line with socio-cultural values.

The park also provides utilitarian and ecological values based on ethical, cultural, aesthetic and intrinsic traditions. These values are particularly important for the park, which plays a central roles in people‘s lives, especially mindful of the ethnic group that inhabit the areas as well.

In addition, the RMNP has initiated several activities geared towards controlling illegal poaching considered detrimental to species conservation. Many patrolling and anti-poaching strategies, strengthening the staff strength, collaborating with the Indian counter parts are done.

RMNP management is also involved in the integrated conservation and development programmes, dissemination of environment education, conduct research, survey and monitoring.

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