While in many other parts of the Himalayas the destruction of forests and loss of habitats have severely reduced wildlife population, Bhutan harbours many endangered species mainly due to the intact forests and the fact that this small country stretches from the subtropics in the south to the perennially frozen regions of the Himalayas in the north. Bhutan has 770 species of birds (15 globally threatened), 165 mammals (among them 24 internationally protected wild animal species) and 5500 species of vascular plants (among them 152 medical plants).
Bhutan has been identified as one of the 10 bio-diversity hot spots in the world and as one of the 221 global endemic bird areas. Almost three fourths of land area is covered by forests of temperate and sub-tropical species that are a natural habitat for a diversity of flora and fauna. Its various eco-systems harbour some of the most exotic species of the eastern Himalayas. An estimated 770 species of birds and over 50 species of rhododendron, along with an astonishing variety of medicinal plants (over 300 species) and orchids are endemic to this region. There are about 3,281 plant species per 10,000 square kilometres.
Nine national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are home to some of the rarest and most significant animals in the world. This has become possible as a result of the combined efforts of the government and the people to keep the country’s flora and fauna undisturbed. The exact number of mammalian species is unknown but over 165 have been reported. Rare animals like golden langur, takin and snow leopard are found distributed widely. Tiger, leopard, elephant, red panda, gaur, serow, Himalayan black bear, brown bear, wild pig, musk deer are some large mammals found in many parts of Bhutan. The Phobjikha valley in Wangdue district and Bomdiling in Yangtse are two of the three wintering grounds for the rare Black-necked crane.
Twenty six per cent of the country’s total area has been declared as nature parks and reserves. These form a haven for a number of the world’s rare and endangered species. Very recently, another nine percent of the country has been set aside as biological corridors connecting protected areas. The corridors form a “Gift to the Earth” from the people of Bhutan. Bhutan is one of very few developing countries where much of the natural resource base remains intact.