Ruddy Shelduck- the Ill treated Guest in Bhutan

Recently I went to photograph the migratory ducks on the sands of the Punatsangchu River with my family. I have seen them year after year and admired them since I know a little about them. It was at this time of the year my class teacher in junior school would ask me to join him down to the Paa Chhu in Paro to photograph these ducks.

Mr. Karma Wangchuk, a born naturalist and self taught artist, is an encyclopedia of birds, plants, butterflies, and animals and has great love for nature. He now teaches in Paro College of Education. He told me about this bird that flies from Tibet to spend their winter with us like the famous black necked crane. The duck is known as Ruddy Shelduck and it’s found along the banks of the Punatsangchu at this time of the year.

However, ruddy shelduck is not as fortunate as black necked cranes because they are not yet endangered. They are among the least concerned category of birds since there are plenty of them across the world. Perhaps the way we are treating this birds might explain why so many birds are already extinct or endangered.

They are our winter guest as much as Black necked cranes are but they are left to their own fate. There are posters talking about conservation of herons and cranes but this bird is pushed aside.

They are preyed by wild dogs and there are also rumors of construction workers finding it easier to hunt duck then to buy chicken. With increasing number of workers in Wangdue the fate of this visiting bird is further doomed.

If we had records, we might discover that the sands along with Punatsangchu River were their homes long before we knew the sand could be used for construction but now our aggressive and indiscriminate excavation of sand has made them homeless.

We are not even waiting for the water to dry up to excavate sand; hundreds of truckloads are carried away every day. Soon the water will dry up in the place where the ducks are sitting now and then the trucks will come there, where would the birds go? They have come to spend their whole winter here.

Every guest coming to Bhutan goes back happy but we are forgetting to be Bhutanese with this poor guest.

 by Passang Passu Tshering

 The writer is a teacher with the Bajothang Higher Secondary School in Wangdiphodrang

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  1. Wamrong-warrior

    I have seen these ducks too and am aware that come winter some hunt it down for meat or sport. Bhutan has been well known for its conservation policies. But I guess when our people (read SSS, Singye Sand and Stones) are into making more and more money, and our elected leaders have sold their soul to the hydro-power rupee, conservation takes a back seat. I am sure there can be a balance. How? The government leaders have to work it out! We should balance if not the Ruddy Shelducks, white bellied herons and maseers will be gone for ever.

  2. Bhutanese are suffering from a major illness called GREED. It has blinded us. Almost all the river basins of Bhutan are earmarked for hydro-projects. When greed drives us, who cares about river fauna and flora? Who cares about nyedhas and zhidhas? 

  3. Bullshit! Bhutanese naturalist know what to do with birds not Passu

  4. Ruddy Shelduck is plenty so no immediate need of conservation. They are not much influence by disturbance what is going in Bajo river basin as they are still seen living in harmony as more are seen foragingand resting in the same area than in other three similar spots like samthang, lekithang and zomlimethang. Sand bank is ofcoursed prefered habitat for Ruddy Shelduck. I have no data to comment on threat but seen Great Cormorant dead in the upper valley. This is based on my own observation for my own little purpose

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