A schools- and science-based participatory approach to conservation in Bhutan

Tshering Dendup

Bhutan is committed to protecting its forests. However, it has insufficient conservationists to survey, monitor and assess the increasing threats to this globally important biodiversity. We will showcase how Bhutan's schools (currently an under-used scientific resource) can assist in delivering important conservation data, place local communities at the heart of local conservation, and enthuse a new, environmentally-aware generation. We will focus on Deothang-NSJ Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), which lies opposite our Phuntshothang School. The IBA provides an irreplaceable forest corridor within the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex; is home to IUCN vulnerable species; is considered of ‘outstanding value’ for biological diversity and endemism; and provides a water-catchment for numerous lowland (Duar) Indian farming communities. However, it is undergoing increasing forest loss, especially in areas adjoining settlements and recently upgraded roads. With support from CSOs (Civil Society Organisations), we will (1) undertake field studies to provide scientific data on the intensity of the threats and the importance of the IBA for rare, range-restricted species; and (2) raise awareness and build consensus amongst key stakeholders (CSOs, Forest Department, community) for conservation action. We will deliver a first-phase Conservation Plan for the IBA, which will advocate sustainable management and protection and provide a baseline against which future conservation actions will be measured.