678 Gentle Giants Roam Bhutan's Forests | WWF

678 Gentle Giants Roam Bhutan's Forests

Posted on
12 August 2018

Coinciding with World Elephant Day, Bhutan launched its Second National Elephant Survey at Sarpang yesterday. After two years of analysing data and consolidating the numbers the Department of Forest and Park Services have confirmed that there are 678 Elephants in Bhutan.
‘The results of this survey will be instrumental in understanding the home range of these magnificent creatures, their migration patterns and habitat utilization so that innovative solutions for Human Elephant Co-existence are created.’ said Dechen Dorji, Country Representative of WWF Bhutan.
The survey was conducted with a more refined survey methodology as compared to the past, in all the elephant recorded sites in the southern part of Bhutan. This method unlike the previous methods combined different data collection methods to yield better estimates of elephant abundance. The main aim of the survey was to estimate with confidence the elephant abundance in Bhutan. With discontinuous elephant population throughout the range countries. The need was felt to provide empirical evidence to effectively manage the population that is found in Bhutan. 
One of the fundamental objectives of wildlife population management or rather any ecological investigation is to understand the relationship between abundance and habitat association. The main objectives of the 2016 survey were:
  1. Reliable estimation of Asian elephant density and abundance in Bhutan; and
  2. Understand the distribution and habitat use of Asian elephants in Bhutan.
  3. Develop national database (photographic record) of elephants.
“We found that elephant conservation in Bhutan needs to focus on maintaining continuous forest cover. Socio-economic development is inevitable but we need to strike balance between conservation and development. Not jeopardizing conservation, development needs to account for mitigation measures that are beneficial to both wildlife and humans.” said Sonam Wangdi, Chief Forestry Officer of the Nature Conservation Division of the Department of Forest and Park Services.
Elephants are classified as endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened. In Bhutan elephants are totally protected under Schedule I of the Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan, 1995. Historical range of Asian elephants extended from west Asia through Iranian coast to the Indian subcontinent, eastwards into south-east Asia including Sumatra, Java and Borneo and Yangtze-Kiang in China, covering area of approximately 9 million km2.
“Elephants are nature’s landscape designers, creating gaps in dense vegetation as they graze, feeding on tree sprouts to keep the savannas clear, and spreading seeds and fertilizing the earth with their dung. They are essential in balancing forest and savanna ecosystems but their habitats are shrinking. Asian Elephants are restricted to just 15% of their original range. So we need to ensure that we come up with measures to protect them.” said Phurba Lhendup, Director of Wildlife Practice from WWF Bhutan
Elephants are distributed throughout the southern belt in Bhutan (Samtse, Chhukha, Dagana, Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, Sarpang, Royal Manas National Park, Samdrupjongkhar and Jomotshangkha Wildlife Sanctuary). They are recorded from as low as 100m to above 2000m and have been found to use diverse habitat ranging from subtropical forests to cool broadleaved forests. 
The first population of Asian elephants in Bhutan was estimated at 513. This estimate was for 800 km2encompassing areas of Samtse, Sarpang and Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary. 
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For Further information, please contact:
For further information, please contact:
Kuenley Tenzin, Asst Program Officer, WWF Bhutan, Thimphu Bhutan
Tel +975 17687456 ktenzin@wwfbhutan.org.bt+975-2-323528/323316
Tenzin Rabgye, Communications Officer, WWF Bhutan, Thimphu Bhutan
Tel +975 17559945 trabgye@wwfbhutan.org.bt+975-2-323528/323316