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    Posted on 17 February 2012

    Indian conservationists to help Bhutan save its flora and fauna

    Tri-partite agreement signed between International Fund for Animal Welfare, Wildlife Trust of India and the Bhutan government

    Ratnadip Choudhury

    Karma Dukpa (left) of the Bhutan government signing the MoU with Executive Director of WTI Vivek Menon in Thimpu on Friday.

    Photo: Radhika Bhagat

    Indian wildlife and environment experts and activists will now be helping its eastern neighbour, the tiny Himalayan nation Bhutan to save its dwindling wildlife and biodiversity.

    International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bhutan’s Forest and Park Services Department, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), as part of its global agenda to conserve iconic species like tigers and safeguard their diminishing habitats. The tri-partite agreement was signed in Bhutan’s capital Thimpu by Azzedine Downes, Vice-president of IFAW, Vivek Menon, Executive Director of WTI and Karma Dukpa, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) of Bhutan.

    Bhutan, as per its Constitution, requires maintaining at least 60 percent of its area under forest cover at all time. Bhutan is also an important tiger habitat in the Indian subcontinent with an estimated 150 big cats in the jungles of Bhutan bordering India’s Northeast. “Bhutan is a unique country in the sense that progress here is measured in terms of Gross National Happiness (GNH). And, one of the pillars to measure the GNP is the ‘conservation of environment and wildlife’ which speaks volumes of the commitment of Bhutan towards wildlife and biodiversity conservation,” said Lyonpo Pema Gyamtsho, Minister of Agriculture and Forests of Bhutan after the agreement was signed.

    Bhutan has seen an enormous increase in cases of animal poaching in the recent past, with tigers being the target often. The agreement signed on Friday spells out collaboration in domains ranging from grassroots initiatives to international advocacy and working with tigers as flagships.

    The key point of the agreement includes building capacity of frontline forest staff of Bhutan 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. Provision of quick aid for wildlife emergencies, and helping improve scientific wildlife research and monitoring in the country are also the focus areas of the MoU. “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 of IFAW, who was also present at the occasion.

    The agreement also outlines promotion of Indo-Bhutan trans-boundary cooperation, particularly in the conservation of Royal Manas National Park that shares international boundary with the UNESCO World Heritage site Manas National Park of Assam. “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 build this cooperation in the field of wildlife conservation on a larger scale,” said Vivek Menon, Executive Director of WTI.

    Significantly, IFAW and WTI had recently assisted the Assam Government to reinstate Manas as a World Heritage through its initiatives.

    Ratnadip Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.
    [email protected]

    Editing by Arpit Parashar

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    Posted on 17 February 2012



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