Human settlement and farming critical to wildlife

Contrary to conventional belief that presence of human settlements, developmental activities and farming within the park areas impedes conservation of flora and fauna, a research conducted by the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) has found out that human settlement and farming practices are critical to its preservation.

In commemoration of 108th National Day, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests launched three publications on the importance of human settlement and farming while conserving endangered species.

The research findings were recorded by a team of researchers from the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary ( BWS)  who recently conducted a study in the park provinces of BWS, one of the prime habitats of Blacknecked Cranes (BNC) and other endangered wildlife species, in an attempt to not only identify the different threats, but also to determine other risks.

The park officials have identified six threats associated to the park and conservation of flora and fauna in the park vicinity.

As per the book, “Protected Areas of Bhutan”, one of the critical observations made is the reduction in the feeding areas and habitat loss is due to fallow lands, where farmers abandon their paddy fields due to unfertile soil for cultivation.

From the six threats, such as biological, social, natural, political threats, etc., the researchers pointed out that the biological threat has a more direct impact on decline on the number of flora and fauna.

The study found that there is a strong statistical correlation between bird population and farming practices. This means the bird population depends on the way and type of farming activities people practice. “More areas under cultivation means more foraging areas for cranes, thus more numbers of cranes visitation,” the research book states.

The research also states that the habitat loss is continuously happening due to landslides, flood and other human activities, such as construction of infrastructure, collection of forest products and littering the park areas.

The park is also at the risk of losing protected species, like tiger, snow leopard, musk deer and BNC due to poaching, habitat change, disturbance and retaliatory killings.

The team has examined and tried to look into the developmental activities where construction of unfriendly roads and cutting of transmission line corridors have resulted into habitat fragmentation and destruction of vegetation

The study analysis concludes that the people are an integral part and parcel of the sustainability of BNC and other wildlife, and their participation in the wildlife conservation works is very much important.

Population trends of the most vulnerable bird species, BNCs, the researchers said is fluctuating, possibly due to habitat loss and degradation.

BWS was established in 1994 in the northeastern part of Bhutan covering over an area of 1520.61 km square and the park covers three gewogs of Trashiyangtse and one gewog each from Mongar and Lhuntse.

The park is home for 734 plant species including 31 ferns, 349 herbs, 64 orchids, 108 shrubs, 42 mammals, 343 birds, 202 butterflies, 18 species of snakes, 4 lizards and 7 fish species which signify that the park has rich diversity of both flora and fauna.

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