Lhendup Tharchen is a wildlife biologist and Park Manager in Bhutan. He is originally from Ura, a small village in Bumthang. Lhendup currently works in Jigme Dorji National park and his work focuses on the big cats, snow leopards and tigers, of Bhutan. Bhutan is the only country of twelve snow leopard range countries where snow leopards and tigers share habitat.
Lhendup is our guest blogger and he shares his excitement at the recent proof from camera traps of a snow leopard family in Bhutan.
“Some say “Mountain ghosts” and some refer to them as “Queen of the Himalayas”. I can’t resist to refer them as the” King of Himalayas”, the elusive and cryptic species , the snow leopard.
Bhutan is known for its un-matching biodiversity richness. The per capita of biodiversity richness for a small country like Bhutan would beyond any doubt be one of the highest among the countries.
Until recently, when camera traps were not deployed for snow leopard surveys, irrespective of the concrete evidence reports from the field, many people questioned the true existence of snow leopards. It is at time a big question whether we really have snow leopards in Bhutan.
This is where and when the modern technology rescued conservationists in Bhutan in raising our heads while talking on snow leopards. In a difficult terrain like Bhutan’s, no amount of energy would suffice the search for Himalayan kings, and last resort one would wish for is magic and magical powers. Rugged and in accessible terrains compounded by high altitudes with low oxygen level is not only an inhibiting factors for the researchers in Bhutan’s high mountain terrains, but a matter of daring to sacrifice one’s life to struggle with the available oxygen in those places. Up on the mountains, where you feel at the height above most of the places on the planet except for few peaks like EVEREST and its competitor ranges, one will wish for only one thing, the SNOW LEOPARD rolling on its tail on the snow covered steep slopes.
Findings from the camera trapping effort in the northern protected areas of Bhutan in last 2 years span has proven more than anyone could wish the proof to be. Numerous individuals have been captured in Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) and Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP). Big cats are solitary in nature, but who said that they are lone animals. Like everyone do, they love their families. So is the Snow leopard family in WCP has been captured using the remote camera.
The officials of WCP, disregarding all the above hostile factors gave their best for the conservation and so did they get their best. Thanks to all the dedicated heroes of WCP. There have been many records of pictorial findings throughout the snow leopard ranges, but to me at least, three individuals captured on a single shot in a camera trap is probably the first one ever (pardon me if I have missed any from others parts of the world).
And that is how snow leopards survive in the KINGDOM of BHUTAN and Bhutan is a special place for HIMALAYAN KINGS.”
Thanks for sharing your story, Lhendup, and we wish you and your Park colleagues and all snow leopard partner NGO’s good luck for this work. Bhutan has a wonderful record of environmentalism and conservation and it is awesome to see snow leopards thriving there.