The Highest number of Cranes recorded in Phobjika
Phobjikha valley in Wangduephodrang is considered one of the largest and most significant wetlands in the country. At 3,000 meters, it is home to the endangered black-necked cranes.
Locally known as thrung thrung karm, these majestic birds migrate to Phobjikha valley from the Tibetan plateau, crossing the mighty Himalayan mountain ranges. This year, the heavenly birds arrived in the picturesque valley late October and will stay on till February. Classified as vulnerable under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s red list categories, these
birds are not only protected but also revered in the country.
In Phobjikha, the arrival of the cranes signals the end of the harvest season. The black-necked cranes have always had a sacred identity in Bhutanese culture and it has often appeared in folktales, songs and historical texts.
Of the global estimated total of about 11,000 black-necked cranes, around 500 of them fly to their winter habitats in Bhutan (Bumdeling in Trashiyangtse, Chumey in Bumthang and Phobjikha).
Every year, over 300 of the estimated 500 cranes that migrate to the country spend their winter months in this valley. The arrival of the cranes is the main attraction for tourists visiting Phobjika.
Records with the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) show that 609 birds arrived this year, the highest number recorded in 29 years.
RSPN has been monitoring the birds in Phobjikha since 1986 and the government leased the area to RSPN for protection and sustainable management in 2003. The Wildlife Conservation Division under the Department of Forest and Park Services looks after the species conservation in the country.
Black-necked cranes visiting the country steadily increased over the past two and half decades. While Phobjikha valley has a gradual increase in black-necked crane arrivals, Bumthang, Bumdeling and Khotokha have seen fewer cranes especially after the early 1990s.
The Black-necked Cranes in Bhutan share their habitat with the local people, Phobjika valley, where the cranes flock during their migration from Tibet and India, is a picture postcard setting for conservation efforts in Bhutan with about 800 households living without electricity in their bid to preserve and protect the black-necked-crane. The valley and its inhabitants have become a leading example of harmonious co-existence. Phobjika valley is now more of a living museum, inviting applause from people all over the world.