A befitting festival to honor the rare and graceful bird

Just like in the past 14 years, this year too, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), together with Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC) will organize the 15th Annual Black-Necked Crane Festival, 2013 at the courtyard of Gangtey Gonpa in Gangtey gewog under Wangdue Phodrang.

The day of festival not only coincides befittingly with the birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, who has been instrumental in preservation and conservation of the environment, but it is also on this day that the first flock of Black-Necked cranes usually fly back to Phobjikha from their summer roosting ground up north.

Come the day, the otherwise tranquil and serene courtyard of the Gangtey Gonpa will suddenly go abuzz with lots of activities. The festival ground

in the courtyard is expected to be jam-packed with the government officials, conservationists and most of all, the local people of Phobjikha who will come to witness and enjoy the festival. But in addition, the crowd will also have foreigners and tourists, most of them carrying digital equipment to record the festival.

As the ground remains alive with the celebration, from the far horizon, the first flock of Black- Necked crane will slowly appear, though initially a group of speck and land in their winter roosting ground in Phobjikha. But not before circumambulating thrice, the Gangtey Gonpa, as religiously as local say they have been doing, every time they leave or enter Phobjikha.

Soon, the whole valley will be reverberating with the resonance of tuneful songs, the beating of the cymbals from the festival ground while the equally melodious call of the birds will blend harmoniously with the festival that is done by the people for the birds.

The annual Black- Necked Crane Festival, according to the organizers, is aimed at educating people about the need for conservation of the environment and the cranes. Hence, the festival will try to make community people very much part of the festival.

For instance, the local communities, the monastic institution and the schools will present a variety of cultural performances including traditional masked and folk dances to entertain the large congregation of spectators.

During the festival, the RSPN would be fully involving the local people, schools and various institutions and in doing s the organizers are expected to garner the goodwill and support of both the local people and the tourists towards conservations of environment and the cranes.

However, the limelight of the festival is the locally choreographed crane dance performed by the local

school children with grace and beauty. It is a unique dance in which a group of school children from the locality put on attire, that of a closest resemblance of the crane itself. As much the dressing resembles the bird, so does the dance choreography to that of the male crane dance to attract the females during the mating season.

However, one addition to the festival, which commenced from last year, the local conservation group, PEMC will be collecting an entry fee of Nu 500 from every tourist that comes to witness the festival. The money collected will help sustain the fund for the annual festival, which as an annual feature will be held every year.

Further, this nominal collection of fees from the tourist will also be utilized by the committee to provide better services for the visitors who support the festival. With the amount the members collect during the festival is also helping to improve the festival programme and stage a better show every year.

The same festival, when it was held last year, attracted more than 400 international tourists. The festival was first organized way back in 1998 by RSPN to remind the local people about the importance of the conservation of the cranes and its habitats, and also to generate some income to finance local conservation initiatives.

RSPN is a citizen-based non-profit, non-governmental environmental organization founded in 19 87 to support environment conservation in Bhutan focusing mainly on environmental education and advocacy, conservation and sustainable livelihoods, research and emerging issues.

While the Phobjikha Environment Management Committee (PEMC) is a local environmental management and conservation group who takes the ownership and responsibility of the all environmental conservation issues in their area.

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