The Phobjikha valley is a popular winter roosting ground of the majestic black-necked cranes. The valley hosted more than 500 cranes from October 2017 to February 2018. The Phobjikha Valley is also the largest protected wetland for the endangered bird.
The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) with the help of local has been carrying out numerous activities in the valley to secure both foraging and roosting habitats of the cranes.
While Phobjikha valley has been witnessing increasing crane arrivals, the habitats in other parts of the country are seeing a decline.The Bumdeling valley in Trashi Yangtse used to see the highest number of cranes back then according to the record. In Bumdelling, there has been both human pressure and natural factors, which led to the decrease in number of crane population.
From the anthropogenic pressure, it is mostly to do with the decreasing foraging sites mainly caused through the abandonment of paddy fields by the local people there due to human-wildlife conflict. From the natural angle, it has been due to the annual flashfloods washing away most part of the paddy fields, which are important foraging sites for the cranes.
The roosting grounds in Bumthang and Lhuentse and Khotokha in Wangdue Phodrang have also been receiving fewer cranes. Only six cranes have arrived in Bumthang and seven in Khotokha so far this year. Habitats in central regions like Bumthang have also to do more with human pressure. There has been lots of development in Chamkhar.
People used to say hundreds of cranes used to visit before but now for obvious reasons only one or two are found. The loss of habitat is not the only threat to the vulnerable bird species. It also falls prey to wild and stray animals.
There are lots of predators. In Phobjikha, we have been able to record the common leopards attacking the cranes through camera trappings. In other areas, it’s mostly stray dogs.
With the birds still arriving, crane conservationists are expecting to see more arrivals this year.