Elephant Conservation Action Plan Launched To Protect Asian Elephants In Bhutan


The national elephant survey in 2017 estimated that a population of 678 elephants still roam the southern foothills of Bhutan.

(Source: WWF Bhutan)


By Choki Wangmo Kuensel

Although elephants are charismatic species with critical roles in shaping forest ecosystems, research concluded that the Asian elephant continues to face threats of extinction globally.

With less than 50,000 individuals in the wild spread over 13 range countries, the Asian elephant is listed as an endangered species under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

More about the Asian elephant

Asian elephants once roamed the Tigris-Euphrates in Western Asia, east through Iran and south of the Himalayas; throughout South and Southeast Asia including the islands of Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Borneo, and into mainland China (northwards at least as far as the Yangtze river).


Source: Science Mag


However, these elephants have disappeared entirely from Western Asia, Iran, and most of China.

Currently they can be found in the following regions and countries, although they are usually restricted to hilly and mountainous areas:

1. Indian subcontinent: India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh,

2. Continental southeast Asia: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Malaysia, 

3. Island Asia: Andaman Islands (India), Sri Lanka, 

4. Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo.

It is estimated that at the turn of the century there were more than 100,000 elephants in Asia. 

Today, the surviving population of Asian elephants is estimated to be between 30,000–50,000, one-tenth of the population of African elephants.

The national elephant survey in 2017 estimated that a population of 678 elephants still roam the southern foothills of Bhutan.

In Bhutan, elephants are protected under Schedule I of the Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995.

About the Elephant Conservation Action Plan

To maintain a viable population of elephants in an improved habitat with reduced human-elephant conflict in Bhutan, the Elephant Conservation Action Plan from 2018 to 2028 was launched on July 31.

The action plan aims to prevent habitat loss and improve the existing elephant habitat conditions.

The plan would also improve coordination among stakeholders to prevent poaching and stop the illegal trading of elephant products.

The tusks of Asian elephants are worth a lot of money on the black market, so large-tusked males are in constant danger of being poached. 

In some parts of Asia, elephants are also captured alive for domestic use or for commercial purposes as tourist attractions.

Threats to the survival and well-being of elephants in Bhutan

Past studies reported that habitat degradation due to intensive livestock grazing along international borders depleted the food supply for elephants.


Source: Youtube/Jayanta Kumar Das


“Incidences of streams completely tapped for irrigation or drinking in the human settlements are causing shortage of water for wildlife.”

On top of that, fire from across the borders results in the degradation of soil quality, thus eroding mineral lick for the species.

As a result of having its habitat disturbed, there has been reports of more human-elephant conflict in the south of Bhutan.

Crop raiding was found to be the most prevalent form of human-elephant conflict causing socio-economic losses to farmers in the south.

In retaliation, a few elephants died as a result of food poisoning and electrocution, according to observations from field officers.

To curb the loss of lives and crops, the Elephant Conservation Action Plan identified the causes of conflicts, mapped the conflict hotspots, and identified strategic action towards mitigating these conflicts.

Moreover, due to the expansion of urban areas and developmental activities, there have been reports of disruption in the migratory routes of elephants.

With Nu 440 million of funds, the Nature Conservation Division will implement the action plan from July 2019 to June 2029.

The plan has been funded by the government, Bhutan for Life, and donors such as the WWF, BTFEC, UNDP, Bhutan Foundation and other international donors.


This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.


Related Posts

In Commemoration Of World Elephant Day, Bhutan Records 678...

There are 678 elephants in Bhutan, according to the second edition of the National Elephant Survey Report.

Aug 15, 2018 12:54

Endangered One-Horned Rhinoceros Spotted At Royal Manas National...

The one-horned rhinoceros was captured multiple times in a camera trap set up for tracking tigers.

Dec 16, 2018 12:33

Critically Endangered Chinese Pangolin Spotted In Tsirang

It was brought to an interim wildlife rescue centre in Damphu and released to its natural habitat after 72 hours.

Apr 11, 2018 13:15

Three White Bellied Herons - Sangay, Choe and Gedun Tagged To...

According to officials, the birds did not exhibit any discomforting behaviour after being tagged with the devices.

May 19, 2019 20:28

Sightings Of White Bellied Herons Declining In Bhutan

The White Bellied Herons are secretive birds, often intolerant of close proximity to humans.

Dec 05, 2018 22:03

Snow Leopards – Ghosts of the Mountains

Called “ghosts of the mountains” by the Himalayan people because of their ability to mysteriously appear and disappear...

Jan 17, 2018 10:30



Canada Offers Scholarships For Students In Bhutan, Aims To Enhance Bilateral Ties

Through the programme starting in the 2020/2021 academic year, scholarship recipients will receive Nu 3,256,029 (about USD 45,600) a year to...

Sep 16, 2019 13:08

Delegation From Bhutan Attended UNCCD COP14 In India

Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Yeshey Penjor led a delegation to the high-level segment of the UNCCD COP14, which was held from...

Sep 12, 2019 23:58


Reconstruction of Lingzhi Dzong – Built To Commemorate Bhutan’s Victory Over A Tibetan Invasion In 1668

To date, about Nu 13 million has been spent since preparatory works for the Lingzhi Dzong construction which began 15 months ago.

Sep 14, 2019 23:58

True Purpose of Rituals And Their Importance In Buddhism

Rituals are an indispensable way of life for a Bhutanese household and families are known to spend a fortune on them.

Sep 13, 2019 12:11


Bhutan’s Pelden Wangchuk Wins 10th Edition Of Tour 0f Dragon Mountain Bike Race

This year, the race also saw the highest number of female participants compared to past years.

Sep 10, 2019 01:08

Tour Of The Dragon – Toughest One Day Bike Race Starts On 7 September In Bhutan

It takes sheer toil and stamina for the top riders to complete the 268 km race which finishes at the capital, Thimphu.

Sep 06, 2019 23:58


Sherza Ventures Limited Launched IPO, Aims To Establish Brand Bhutan Products Globally And More

Sherza Ventures Limited aims to be a hyper retail and wholesale trading venture using e-commerce.

Sep 09, 2019 10:58

iMerit Bhutan Launched, Hopes To Create Far-Reaching Socio-Economic Impact

iMerit strives to drive social and economic change by tapping into an under-resourced talent pool, thereby creating digital inclusion.

Sep 04, 2019 10:58


Plans In The Pipeline To Develop Trongsa For Tourism

“The people of Trongsa were very supportive of the tourism development concept for the locality.”

Sep 05, 2019 14:48

7 Facts You Never Knew About Flying Into Bhutan

Druk Asia interviewed Namgyal Wangchuk, Senior First Officer with Drukair to find out what it's like to fly into Paro International Airport.

Aug 07, 2019 23:18


7 Vegetables You Must Try While Visiting Bhutan

Read Tashi Choden's blog on the vegetables to try if you ever visit Bhutan.

Aug 31, 2019 16:43

Many Lives, Many Stories - 10th Edition of Bhutan’s Mountain Echoes Literary Festival Underway

About 80 speakers and performers came from different parts of the world with different stories to narrate.

Aug 25, 2019 22:42

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!