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Bhutans endangered species under threat

The global warming and the climate changes shows the threat to the Bhutan’s endangered species in the recent times from the study made by the natural conservationists.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP), in another similar effort for adaption, have jointly come up with the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment report last week.

According to one of the authors of the report who currently works with WWF-Bhutan, Phurba Lhendup, this study is perhaps the first of its kind.

The main idea is to mainstream the findings and recommendations into conservation planning of the WCP.

Livelihood vulnerability was assessed at community and household level through participatory rural appraisals.

The executive summary of the report states that the results of the climate change vulnerability assessment of WCP present a compelling case for parallel tracks of action to address knowledge gaps while starting to implement specific programs to increase the adaptive capacity of WCP.

“Vulnerability of biodiversity was assessed using a combination of qualitative assessments of biological traits of selected focal, representative species, complemented by climate projection models,” said Phurba Lhendup.

The study focused on three components – bio-diversity, livelihood and water resources. “We looked at the vulnerability of these three components in the face of climate change,” Phurba Lhendup said, adding that they took into consideration six focal species under bio-diversity.

Snow leopard

As the snow leopards are widely hunted for their pelts, persecuted for livestock depredation, and experiencing losses in their primary prey base, they are listed as endangered.

The climate model projects a shrinking of core areas, habitat fragmentation, and loss of connectivity under climate change, due to change from alpine to forest habitat.

“Habitat in Toorsa, WCP, and Bumdeling is especially vulnerable,” the report stated.

“While snow leopard habitat in Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) may be more resilient to climate change, the populations may become fragmented because of a potential northward and upward shift in forests along the major river valleys.”

The potential direct (physiological) vulnerability to climate change for this species is the warming trend in the Himalayas which could cause the elevation of the tree line to increase and thereby reduce the size of the alpine zone available to snow leopards.

The potential effects of climate change on the status and distribution of the snow leopard as identified in the study is considerable loss of snow leopard habitat in Bhutan, especially in WCP, Toorsa, and Bumdeling.

Further it also states that the eastern parts of JDNP will also lose some habitat, but generally most habitats seem resilient to change.

However, the populations in the eastern and western parts of the park could become isolated if forest habitat responded to projected climate change as a northward shift along the upper reaches of the Mochhu.

Blue Sheep

According to Phurba Lhendup, species like the Blue Sheep even if it is not endangered has been included in the study because of its importance as a prey to the endangered snow leopards.

“Widespread loss of blue sheep populations could affect the population numbers of snow leopards that prey on these sheep,” states the report.

In the face of climate change, climate-driven disease may pose a greater risk to this species than habitat loss might, although both pose threats, particularly if they occur together.


Bhutan’s tigers, according to the report, are experiencing population decline due to loss of habitat, poaching, and a declining prey base.

Under climate change, there is a potential for a northward shift in tiger habitat deep into the northern parks, especially along the major river valleys which would increase favorable forest habitat for tigers and increase the threats from agriculture.

The climate model reflected in the study showed a broad northward shift in suitable tiger habitat.


Owing to the decline in population, Takin is categorized as a vulnerable species.

The decline as noted is due to competition with domestic livestock that degrade the habitat for space and forage, grazing pressure, and commercial harvesting of products in Takin’s habitat.

As Takin populations are relatively small and localized, they could be vulnerable to diseases and stochastic events including floods from glacial lake outbursts due to climate change.

Musk deer

The Musk Deer is categorized as endangered as it is widely hunted for musk pods.

With climate change, musk deer could experience an upslope habitat shift.

The impact of climate change would result in habitat loss of this species in Sakteng and Thrumshingla, while the habitat in protected areas in western Bhutan will be resilient.

Habitats in southern and central parts of WCP will remain with some loss in the eastern area of the park, while most of the habitats in JDNP and Toorsa national park and surrounding areas will also be resilient to climate change impacts.

Red Panda

Habitat loss, degradation, and poaching are noted as reasons for a severe range-wide population decline of the endangered Red Panda.

The report notes that in Bhutan, habitat connectivity between WCP and Thrumshingla National Park, JDNP, and Jigme Singye Wanchuck National Park, the southern parts of Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary; and the eastern parts and buffer zone of Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary will likely remain resilient to habitat changes under a high emissions climate change scenario.

“However, habitat within and to the south of JDNP in the western region are vulnerable to climate change impacts under a high emissions scenario.”