Rich and varied biological diversity, very few countries in the world match Bhutanâ€™s biological diversity and fewer still have taken such strong steps to conserve their biodiversity. Bhutan has developed its own Biodiversity Action Plan. Bhutan ranks amongst the top 10 of highest species density (species richness per unit area) in the world. Roughly 26.23% of the countryâ€™s area is protected through National Parks. In addition, a further 9% has been declared as Biological Corridor, connecting protected areas. As a result, more than 35% of the countryâ€™s area is under the protection of some form of conservation management.
Bhutanâ€™s species level inventories have indicated that there are more than 5,500 species of vascular plants, more than 770 species of avifauna and more than 165 species of mammals, with many species being endemic to Bhutan. The species of plants include 300 species of medicinal plants, 50 species of Rhododendron,600 species of Orchid commonly found up to 2100m and some plants that also grow above 3700m.
The tree line in Bhutan is extremely high due to the combination of heavy rainfalls and the southern position encourages growth of trees and forests up to 4000m. Bhutan is also becoming well known for its incomparable variety of flowers. The â€œBlue Poppyâ€ is Bhutanâ€™s national flower, and has a blue or purple tinge with a white filament and can be found in the mountains. Edelweiss, primrose, anemone and lady-slippers bloom from late May to July and can be seen on many of the treks in Bhutan. Many varieties of mushrooms grow abundantly throughout Bhutan.
Bird species in Bhutan are considerable and signal potential for future tourism product development. To date, some 675 species have been recorded in Bhutan. Of these, the White-bellied Heron is critically endangered with roughly 40 White-bellied Herons residing in the Punakha valley. The Blacked-Necked Crane is winters in Bhutan and is considered an endangered species. This bird comes to the valleys of Phobjikha, Bumdeling and Gyetsa during the winter, arriving in November of most years and departs by March each year.
In terms of mammals, the National Conservation Plan for Bhutan provides a provisional list of 178 species based on predicted occurrence. This includes 24 internationally threatened species. The Takin, is the national animal of Bhutan and can be seen along Bhutanâ€™s trekking routes (although difficult to sight due to its shy nature). Furthermore, one may spot elephants, tigers, clouded leopards, and rhinoceros in the south, and snow leopards, bears and Red Pandas in the north.
Bhutan has more than 72% of the total land under forest. 26.23% of the total land cover is under protected area and 9% as part of the biological corridors (NCD 2002:37). The following are the protected areas:
1. Jigme Dorji National Park
2. Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park
3. Toorsa Strict Nature Reserve
4. Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary
5. Thrumshingla National Park
6. Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary
7. Sakten Wildlife Snactuary
8. Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary
9. Biological Corridor
The National Assembly, the highest legislative body mandated that the country maintain at least 60% of the land under forest cover (National Forest Policy, 1974) for all time to come. Conservation of natural resources continues to remain a priority for the Royal Government.