© WWFBhutan/Tenzin Rabgye
Out of the eight biogeographic realms on earth, Bhutan straddles two major biogeographic realms, the Indo-Malayan realm consisting of the lowland rain forests of South and Southeast Asia and the Pale-arctic realm consisting of conifer forests and alpine meadows of northern Asia and Europe. The country is home to 200 species of mammals, 770 species of birds and 119 species of Herpetofauna which is still being researched, studied and documented.

Like any other developing country, Bhutan is also on the racing track of economic development. According to Asian Development Bank (ADB) report Bhutan’s growth was projected to accelerate 9.9% in 2018 from the 8.2% increase in 2017. Development activities encroaching into natural forests, prime wildlife habitats and their migratory routes pose immediate threats to wildlife and their habitats, particularly in triggering habitat fragmentation and degradation. Besides habitat fragmentation, illegal wildlife trade and human wildlife conflict are the key threats facing wildlife conservation in Bhutan. Poaching and illegal wildlife trade is on the rise and human wild life conflicts are escalating.

This wildlife practice strategy takes a holistic approach in delivering the output that will contribute to the Global Wildlife Practice goals through two high impact initiatives (HIIs)- doubling tigers number by 2022 and securing 20 Snow leopard landscapes by 2020 besides contributing to the WWF Bhutan’s conservation strategy, Milestone of Bhutan for Life, national biodiversity action plan of Bhutan and the 12th five-year plan of Bhutan.
Wildlife species of ecological and cultural importance are adequately protected and managed to sustain a viable population
that are resilient to climate change.

Goal: By 2020, wildlife populations of most ecological and cultural importance are stabilized in priority habitats and recovery sites.


© WWFBhutan/DoFPS
Bhutan is considered one of the critical components in the success of the Global Tiger Recovery Program and the goal of TX2, to double wild tigers by 2022. Indeed Bhutan stands alone as the only tiger range country that can be considered as a tiger landscape almost in entirety. The 2011 tiger survey conducted by UWICE in RMNP estimated tiger density at 4.47 tigers/100 km2. The report also indicates co-existence of seven other cat species in this low lying area, and in the high mountains it is the only country where snow leopards and tigers co-exist.
However, the potential threats to tigers are: habitat loss and degradation, poaching and weak enforcement, weak trans-boundary management systems, and weak linkages between conservation and local livelihoods leading to tiger-human conflicts.  
© WWFBhutan/DoFPS

Snow leopard

Bhutan represents the southern periphery of snow leopard range and this species was a rare and little studied species in Bhutan until monitoring began in 2011. Bhutan considers it as an excellent indicator species for Eastern Himalayan alpine eco-region and climate change. Snow leopard is listed in the schedule I (totally protected species) of the Forest and Nature Conservation Act (1995). Till date only preliminary population estimates are available from Jigme Dorji National Park and Wangchuck Centennial National Park. The potential habitat identified in terms of area is 10,000 km² and population is estimated at 100 animals (2001). 

Asiatic Elephant

© WWF Bhutan
Elephants occur in the southern foothills along the Bhutan-India border in the districts of Samdrupjongkhar, Sarpang, Tsirang, Samtse and Gedu. In these places human-elephant conflict (HEC) is also a major issue.  Elephants seasonally migrate between India and Bhutan across Indo-Bhutan border and very little is known about distribution, abundance, or dispersal patterns. The Royal Government has initiated study on the migration pattern of these elephant using the radio collars, and erecting electrical/ solar fencing in isolated HEC vulnerable and impacted villages. There is no established baseline for elephant populations in Bhutan as a nation-wide survey has not been conducted. 
White Bellied Heron, Punakha, Bhutan
© WWFBhutan/Karma Jigme

White-bellied Heron

The white-bellied heron and golden mahaseer are grouped as footprint species mainly because of potential impacts on their habitats due to rapid development of water infrastructure, particularly hydropower. The current global population of WBH is thought to be 50-249 mature individuals (D. Wilson and J. Eames in litt. 2006). The extremely low and probably shrinking population of WBH across the region is attributed to human exploitation of the bird’s riverine habitats. Population in Bhutan is estimated at 14-22 individuals based on Royal Society of Protection of Nature’s annual census (2003-2014). According to RSPN the very small genetic pool (fewer than 6 breeding pairs in Bhutan, and perhaps 25 pairs globally) and rapid loss of habitat is of immediate concern.

Golden Mahaseer

© WWFBhutan
This fish is one of the least studied and currently considered “threatened” because of the rapid population decline in the Himalayan region triggered by pollution, habitat loss and fishing. The Department of Livestock indicates that Bhutan’s rivers may be one of the last remaining aquatic habitats for the golden mahseer population. In Bhutan golden and chocolate mahseers are found in rivers at the central and southern belts where most of these rivers have hydropower schemes. Although illegal fishing is not rampant in Bhutan, adult mahseers get killed during migration across the Indo-Bhutan border. Bhutan still lacks proper scientific data on mahseer, especially habitat usage, reproductive biology, migration, and age-and-growth patterns to initiate any conservation initiatives.

Illegal Wildlife Trade

Although Illegal Wildlife Trade is not widespread in Bhutan, instances of wildlife poaching and apprehension of illegal wildlife part traders are emerging. The growing demand for wildlife parts in the global black market and the temptation to grow rich overnight is the luring precursor triggering wildlife crime.