Bhutan’s pristine environment represents biodiversity in all its wealth. The sub tropical flora and fauna of the southern foothills bordering India changes dramatically as the terrain rises steeply beyond the alpine zone to the great northern glaciers. The country is noted for maintaining the largest fraction of land as protected areas and one of the largest proportions of forest cover in the world.
Guided by spiritual values ingrained in Bhutanese life over the centuries, the people of this largely agrarian society have long recognised that to exploit the land would lead to depleting the source of their own livelihoods. Bhutan thus accepts the challenge to preserve its environmental heritage against the forces largely driven by material values.
The eastern Himalayan region has the highest species density in the world. In this region, Bhutan is the habitat for some of the world’s rarest plants, birds, and animals. The country’s eco-system is home to more than 300 medicinal plants used in traditional medicine, about 50 species of the rhododendron, more than 400 species of orchids, and an estimated 700 species of birds. The rich forests, which cover 72 percent of the total land area, provide shelter for many endangered species. The Black-Necked Crane, the White-Bellied Heron, the Snow Leopard, the Red Panda, the Golden Langur, and the Bengal Tiger live and roam freely in a land where spiritual values uphold respect for all life forms.
National parks now make up more than a quarter – or 26% – of Bhutan’s total land area. Bhutan’s Parliament decided in 1974 on a forest policy to maintain at least 60 percent of its land under forest cover. This policy is today enshrined in Bhutan’s Constitution which mandates that the country maintain at least 60% of its land under forest cover at all times. In 2001, the government took a significant step in environmental conservation by designating another nine per cent of its land as biological corridors. These wildlife corridors encompass 3,885 sq.kms., providing protected migratory pathways among the country’s system of protected areas.
Bhutan’s special contributions to the global environment are now widely recognized. As more countries find their environment destroyed under development pressures or pursuit of economic prosperity, the kingdom is one of the world’s last frontiers for conservation in the eastern Himalayas