Unique Species

Since the terrain is mountainous, it is difficult to access the innermost parts of Bhutan. These relatively undisturbed areas are home to some of Bhutan's exotic wildlife. This makes it difficult for even the most determined visitors to catch glimpses of Bhutan's full range of diverse species. Even most Bhutanese people count themselves lucky to see some of the creatures that inhabit their homeland.


photo M. Noonan

Found only in the mountains, the Blue Poppy, the national flower of Bhutan, is arguably one of the rarest flowers in the world. Hair-like bristles cover the leaves and stems for protection from the cold Himalayan winds.


photo M. Noonan

The national bird, the raven, is a common sight above the treeline in Bhutan. Amusing to watch, this sociable bird will even perform acrobatics in the air. The Bhutanese believe that the raven is one form taken by the country's guardian deity, Yeshe Goem.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          photo M. Noonan

The national tree, the cypress, is found in dry, temperate forests. Cypress trees have been measured at over 50 metres tall. The Bhutanese believe this tree came from the walking stick of Guru Rinpoche, the second buddha who brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Cypress trees are often planted close to religious buildings and are used for incense.

The Golden Langur lives in the area between the Puna Tsang River and the Manas River. Since these waterways limit this species's distribution, these beautiful creatures are not found anywhere else in the world. In fact, outsiders did not know of their existence until this past century. At present, the Golden Langur population is not threatened. Its numbers have been stable and its ecosystem is healthy.


photo M. Noonan

On the other hand, the beautiful Snow Leopard is a species that is in danger of extinction. Humans still hunt them for their soft grey fur, and this is a particularly acute problem because, even in the best of circumstances, the Snow Leopard has a low birth rate. It is a solitary creature that prowls the snowy Himalayas, searching for goats and other animals to prey upon.

The Red Panda is a herbivorous creature that stands only half a meter tall. It is nocturnal, and sleeps in trees during the day.


photo M. Noonan

Tigers are found in southern Bhutan, generally not venturing too far north into the colder climates. However, we learned that one Bengal Tiger was recently found at 2,900 m altitude in Bhutan, surprising most people who believed that this cat would never climb that high.


photo M. Noonan

The national mammal of Bhutan is a Takin. It grazes in valleys in the winter and migrates to higher elevations in the summer to escape the heat and accompanying parasites. In the forests, Takins characteristically move independently, for the most part living the lives of solitary animals. However, when in the open meadows of the mountains, Takins tend to congregate into herds and cooperate in joint defense when threatened. At first, this unique creature stumped scientists who try to classify it. In fact, it's closest living relative is the Musk Ox that inhabits the artic tundra of North America.


photo M. Noonan

To some, the Takin is better explained by the Bhutanese legend involving a "Divine Madman" -- the Buddhist Lama Drukpa Kunley, who visited the country in the fifteenth century. Because of his bizarre and unusual ways, many people did not really believe he was a true holy man. Still, people gathered around him, begging to see a miracle. On one such occasion, he is said to have eaten an entire cow and then a whole goat. Then it is said that he took the goat's head and attached it to the cow's body. With the crowd looking on, the Divine Madman commanded the beast to rise. It did, and now that animal, the Takin, can be found grazing in the Bhutanese mountains
 

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.