Three Black-Necked Cranes In Bhutan Tagged With GPS Transmitters To Study Their Migratory Routes
The data collected, officials say, will be invaluable for the protection of this endangered species.
By Tshering Zam | BBS
The Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS) tagged three Black-necked cranes with GPS transmitters last month to study their migratory routes.
Officials say data from the GPS transmitters will help identify potential threats during the bird’s migration and help step up conservation efforts at the cranes’ roosting areas.
The Black-necked crane is listed as an endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species and is legally protected in Bhutan.
The three cranes were tagged with GPS transmitters, each weighing 40 grams last month. This is an acceptable weight for the Black-necked cranes to handle.
A researcher with the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for the Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) in Bumthang, Sherab, said that any animal can carry a weight that is three per cent of its body weight.
More about the Black-necked cranes and where they are found
Holding a special place in the hearts and folklore of the Bhutanese, the black-necked crane is also known as the ‘Thrung Thrung Karmo’ in Dzongkha. They are also called ‘Lhab-bjas’ or ‘heavenly birds’ by the locals.
The two major migratory sites for these birds in Bhutan are: the Phobjikha Valley in Wangdue district and Bumdeling Valley in Trashiyangtse district.
As winter approaches, the cranes will make their annual pilgrimage to the valley around October where they usually remain until the following April. The Phobjikha Valley is also the largest protected wetlands for these endangered birds.
For the Bhutanese, the Black-necked crane is deeply revered and regarded as a symbol of marital fidelity.
Some believe that they are the reincarnation of two deities who are the guardians of the Phobjikha Valley.
Upon their arrival and departure, these graceful birds will circle the Gangtey Goenpa three times. To the locals, this act represents the honouring of the three sacred jewels of Buddhism.
Photo: India Environment Portal
The project is also expected to strengthen the trans-boundary cooperation in the conservation of the birds with Bhutan’s neighbouring countries.
Similar kind of projects was also conducted in 1998 and 2011. The BWS recorded 119 crane arrivals this winter.
More information needed on the dietary habits and migratory routes of the Black-necked cranes
“So far we are not able to understand the exact summer places where the cranes roost when they fly towards the north.”
We are also not able to ascertain their dietary habits and migratory routes. Thus, the faeces of the cranes will also be collected to examine their dietary habits.
The GPS transmitter will provide data on these ‘unknowns’, he added. The GPS transmitters are solar-charged and they will be able to send information to the researchers daily.
A senior forestry officer with the BWS, Tshering Dendup said that this study will enable them to understand what exactly the cranes feed on.
He added that studies carried out till date were not comprehensive enough. In Trashiyangtse, cranes were found to be feeding on rice grains.
Benefits of carrying out the project using GPS transmitters
The UWICER and BWS, together with support from the Royal Society for Protection of Nature are carrying out this project.
The data, officials say, will be invaluable for the protection of this endangered species.
“With all these information, we can protect the bird’s roosting place. It will also benefit other animals dwelling in that area. Information on what the bird does while remaining idle, and where they live will also be obtained,” UWICER’s Sherab said.
This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.