People and Wildlife

The people of Bhutan inhabit the same space as thousands of other plant and animal species. In order to do so peacefully, the Bhutanese have a high level of respect for the natural wildlife of their land. The Buddhist monk Gembo Dorji taught us that nature is our parent. Since ultimately everything is derived from nature, the relationship between nature and person is like that of mother and child.

Traditionally, the Bhutanese have found ways to use the plants and animals to their advantage. Fish scales were used to make rain hats, saddles for riding were made of frog skin, and rhino hides were used for shields.

photo M. Noonan

The people of Bhutan have always regarded their land as a special place. Now, they are letting the rest of the world know just how extraordinary the flora and fauna is by inviting international tourist to visit their country.

Currently, 26% of Bhutan lies within officially protected areas. Under the direction of Dr Sangay Wangchuk, who has heads the Nature Conservation Division of the Bhutanese Department of Forestry, there are currently six operational national parks, with three more in the process of being developed. This is not a simple process. Because most Bhutanese people are spread throughout the country, living in small communities everywhere in the mountains, Dr Wangchuk recognizes that their society is linked with the land and the ecosystem. Furthermore, he wants to maintain the relationship between people and the ecosystem. The plan is for the park system and the rural society to co-evolve over time into a win-win relationship of cooperative stewardship over the environment.

photo M. Noonan

Since most Bhutanese follow the teachings of Buddha, in which one can be reborn as an animal, the people in Bhutan already have a natural respect for animal life. This has made the setting aside of space for wildlife an easier process than it has been in some other countries. In his conversation with our group, Dr Wangchuk observed that "what the people in west countries have done in a more formal and organized system has already been part of our culture from the beginning."

photo M. Noonan is a program of Canisius College, Buffalo, NY.                                                  Web Design by Ivan Andrijevic