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WWF-Bhutanโ€™s Remarkable Year: Conservation, Collaboration, and Climate Leadership

โ€ฆ๐’๐’—๐’†๐’“ ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’‘๐’‚๐’”๐’• ๐’š๐’†๐’‚๐’“, ๐‘พ๐‘พ๐‘ญ’๐’” ๐’Š๐’Ž๐’‘๐’‚๐’„๐’•๐’‡๐’–๐’ ๐’†๐’‡๐’‡๐’๐’“๐’•๐’” ๐’‰๐’‚๐’—๐’† ๐’‘๐’๐’”๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’—๐’†๐’๐’š ๐’•๐’๐’–๐’„๐’‰๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’๐’Š๐’—๐’†๐’” ๐’๐’‡ ๐’๐’—๐’†๐’“ 65,000 ๐’Š๐’๐’…๐’Š๐’—๐’Š๐’…๐’–๐’‚๐’๐’” ๐’‚๐’„๐’“๐’๐’”๐’” 12 ๐’…๐’Š๐’”๐’•๐’“๐’Š๐’„๐’•๐’”

Phurpa Wangmo

In the recently released 2022-2023 report by WWF-Bhutan, Chimi Rinzin, the Country Director, reflects on the past year as an inspiring journey marked by resilience and adaptability, especially in the wake of the post-pandemic landscape.
With Bhutan experiencing significant economic growth, the role of WWF has become pivotal in underlining the importance of nature protection as the cornerstone for sustainable progress. The challenge faced was the need to forge a new conservation pathway that aligns with evolving national priorities, with a fundamental emphasis on placing people at the core of their initiatives.

Over the past year, WWF’s impactful efforts have positively touched the lives of over 65,000 individuals across 12 districts. The organization has concentrated on inclusive conservation and addressing obstacles to green growth.
Noteworthy projects, such as the establishment of a biogas plant in Samdrup Jongkhar and the implementation of a solar training program, showcase WWF’s unwavering commitment to sustainable practices. The annual report serves as a testament to the recalibrated conservation approach, embracing inclusivity, and acknowledging the interdependence of people and nature.

Celebrating the increase in tiger and snow leopard populations, Rinzin extends gratitude for the invaluable partnerships with the Royal Government of Bhutan, collaborators, and donors. The organization looks ahead with enthusiasm, aiming to double conservation impacts in the upcoming strategic plan cycle while maintaining a focus on inclusive conservation objectives.

In a collaborative effort between the Jomotshangkha Wildlife Sanctuary and local communities, Ugyen Tshering, Chief Forestry Officer, led the construction of electric fences aligned with Asian elephant migration routes in south-eastern Bhutan’s Jomotshangkha region. The initiative addresses survival challenges faced by the country’s estimated 678 elephants due to habitat degradation, human-elephant conflicts, and illegal wildlife trade. Supported by WWF-Bhutan and the Department of Forests and Park Services, the project emphasized the importance of understanding migratory routes for effective conservation.

Recognizing past challenges with electric fences that were ineffective due to wildlife migration, the new approach maintains a 50-meter wide buffer space between farms, encouraging separate field fencing to facilitate elephant movement. The project aligns with WWF-Bhutanโ€™s Asian Elephant conservation project, utilizing innovative and nature-based solutions like electric fences and lemon tree planting to reduce conflicts, enhance farmers’ livelihoods, and provide an alternative income source.

Simultaneously, Bhutan witnesses a significant development in the professionalization of ranger workforces. In collaboration with the Department of Forests and Park Services, WWF-Bhutan initiated the adoption of the Global Ranger Code of Conduct (CoC). Over 1,300 rangers, including the Director and Chief Forestry Officers were trained on the adopted code, emphasizing ethical conduct and high standards. The project aims to continue supporting ranger capacity building, focusing on inclusivity in their crucial role as intermediaries between people and wildlife.

In the realm of sustainable energy, WWF-Bhutan, with support from Solar Energy International, organized a 10-day training on Solar PV systems, engaging 25 participants who later contributed to mega-solar projects in the country. The initiative seeks to accelerate solar initiatives, create market demand, and raise awareness, aligning with Bhutan’s commitment to carbon neutrality.

Addressing waste management challenges, Samdrupjongkhar Thromde segregates dry and wet waste as part of the Waste and Climate Change Project. Wet waste is transported to a bio-gas plant at Jigme Namgyal Engineering College, reducing the environmental impact of waste and exploring alternative clean energy sources.

Additionally, WWF-Bhutan collaborated with Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law, judiciary, and legal experts to combat illegal wildlife trade. Awareness workshops and community engagement emphasized the importance of wildlife conservation, aligning with Bhutan’s goal to mitigate threats to its rich biodiversity.

The IKI Living Landscape project by WWF-Bhutan supported the development of eco-tourism sites, benefiting local communities and contributing to biodiversity conservation. Trails, resting places, and ecotourism facilities were established in various locations, providing opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

In Bumthang, the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Forest Research and Training introduced a smart nursery for forestry development, funded by WWF-Bhutan’s IKI Living Landscape project. This initiative enhances training infrastructure and institutional capacity, supporting research and education on native plants with commercial and therapeutic value.

In the realm of technological advancements, WWF-Bhutan promoted use of innovative tools like SMART and SMART connect, becoming vital for conservation efforts. Advanced Drone Operation and SAFE System training sessions empowering officials to address human-wildlife conflicts were implemented. WWF-Bhutan’s commitment to technological progress is underscored by the support of equipment worth over USD 500,000 to partners involved in conservation projects.

Looking ahead, WWF-Bhutan looks forward to engages stakeholders from various sectors to formulate a new five-year Strategic Plan aligned with government priorities. The plan aims to diversify conservation pathways and double resources to achieve impactful and scalable outcomes. The organization emphasizes collaboration with partners to fulfill the vision of a healthy, prosperous, and secure Bhutan.

As the global community grapples with a triple planetary crisis, Bhutan stands as a leader in combatting climate change, pledging carbon neutrality, and actively participating in global initiatives like the Bhutan Climate Action Conclave. The nation calls for increased global support and solidarity to tackle climate disruption, biodiversity loss, and pollution. WWF-Bhutan was one of the many partners that organized the conclave last year.

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