Today the Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley inaugurated the second largest protected area in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Called Wangchuck Centenary Park (WCP) it is named after the ruling monarchy whose conservation vision made it possible. Covering about 3,736 km sq of the north-central region of the country this new park connects small fragmented pieces of previous parks.
When I was travelling in Bhutan last year I saw some of these beautiful areas but noticed that the villagers were struggling to build sustainable livelihoods. That’s now also been addressed with the new park expected to support local communities through community tourism and home-stays for tourist accommodation.
The park area is host to endangered mammals such as snow leopards and Himalayan black bear which now range across large linked areas of their habitat, areas that are big enough to support prey species needed by snow leopards to survice.
Bhutan currently has an active snow leopard conservation project that is confirming population numbers and range for the animal as well as collecting DNA samples for analysis. See some photographs.