IFAW-WTI commits to work with Bhutan help save wildlife
Committing to help Bhutan save its natural heritage, the International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) today signed an agreement with the Himalayan nation’s Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS), Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), as part of its global agenda to conserve iconic species like tigers and safeguard their dwindling habitats.
With a rare constitutional requirement to maintain at least 60% of its area under forest cover at all times, Bhutan promises to be one of the last strongholds for the tiger. An estimate suggests that the country supports a maximum of 150 individuals.
“Bhutan is a unique country, in the sense that progress here is measured in terms of Gross National Happiness (GNP). And, one of the pillars to measure the GNP is the ‘conservation of (our) environment’ which speaks volumes of the commitment of Bhutanese towards nature,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, Minister of Agriculture and Forests.
However, illegal demands for tiger products impose severe threats on Bhutan’s tigers, a common thread in the Indian subcontinent.
The tri-partite agreement between IFAW-WTI and MoAF, Bhutan, spells out collaboration in domains ranging from grassroots initiatives to international advocacy working with tigers as flagships.
“IFAW-WTI has been extending support to wildlife conservation in Bhutan, and today we formalise our joint commitment. With the combination of the international expertise that they bring and the commitment of our people and the government, we expect Bhutan to set yet another example for the world to follow suit,” Lyonpo Pema added.
The agreement includes building capacity of frontline forest staff for more effective anti-poaching operations, and training for enforcement agencies like the Police, Army, Customs, and other enforcement agencies under MoAF in wildlife trade control. Adding on, Karma Dukpa, Director General, DoFPS, welcomed the initiative of IFAW-WTI to facilitate provision of quick aid for wildlife emergencies, and help improve scientific wildlife research and monitoring in the country through this agreement.
“Political will of a government is a prime necessity for successful wildlife conservation, and in Bhutan, there is no dearth of it,” said Azzedine Downes, Vice-president, IFAW. “Bhutan already fares much better than many other countries in terms of wildlife conservation, but this is an evolving field as any other science, it is necessary to keep oneself updated. That is where we will try and help Bhutanese authorities.”
The agreement also outlines promotion of Indo-Bhutan transboundary cooperation, particularly in the conservation of Royal Manas National Park that shares international boundary with the UNESCO World Heritage - Manas National Park in India.
“Successful conservation initiatives require unified approach from different governments notwithstanding geo-political boundaries. India and Bhutan share a unique bond, and it is only natural for the two countries to bring this cooperation in the field of wildlife conservation on a larger scale,” said Vivek Menon, Executive Director, WTI.
IFAW-WTI had recently assisted the local governments in India to reinstate Manas as a World Heritage through its initiative - ‘Bring Manas Back’. The successful advocacy in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meet in Paris in June 2011, was a culmination of a decade-long effort of holistic conservation initiatives that included strengthening the anti-poaching apparatus, generating baseline data on wildlife, human-wildlife conflict mitigation, empowerment of community-based organisations, rescue and rehabilitation of rare fauna including the reintroduction of locally extinct greater one-horned rhinoceros.
“Now with this agreement, there may be bigger opportunity to explore the expansion of the landscape level conservation that is already taking shape in India as Greater Manas, into a transboundary initiative,” added Menon.