Agay Phurba and the Dancing Cranes – A children’s book on black-necked cranes by youth


The Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in partnership with READ Bhutan virtually launched a children’s book on the conservation of black-necked cranes written by a group of youth. The book titled ‘Agay Phurba and the Dancing Cranes’ was launched on 5th February 2022.

Coinciding with the 6th Birth Anniversary of His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) in partnership with READ Bhutan virtually launched a children’s book called ‘Agay Phurba and the Dancing Cranes’ on 5th February 2022. The book is set for print publication and online accessibility in PDF once the lockdown lifts. It will be available in Dzongkha and English languages. 

‘Agay Phurba and the Dancing Crane’ is a children’s book focused on the conservation of the vulnerable black-necked cranes and set in Trashiyangtse. The book focuses on the cooperative relationship between people and animals that is ultimately beneficial to both. It also highlights some of the human activities that are in conflict with wildlife and their environment. 

The book was put together by 15 youths with help from national experts during a week-long story-telling and illustration workshop. The workshop was implemented by READ Bhutan under the TCB’s GEF7 Ecotourism Project ‘mainstreaming biodiversity conservation into the tourism sector in Bhutan.‘ Initially, the idea was to document existing folktales on the black-necked cranes in the community but the lack of local tales on the black-necked cranes in the community led to the team creating a realistic fiction. 

The black-necked cranes have a sacred identity in Bhutanese culture and often appear in folklore and dances. Their arrival also signifies a good agricultural year for the locals. The youth contributors made a day visit to the beautiful Bumdeling Valley which lies about 8 KM from Tashi Yangtse to identify and document local tales. 

Bumdeling Valley falls under the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary and is one of the two popular winter homes (Phobjikha being another) of the black-necked cranes. In Bumdeling, the youths met Agay Phurba who has been looking after the cranes for the past forty-one years as part of RSPN program to take care of the birds and create awareness in the community. 

The children collected a lot of information on the magnificent creature and returned to VAST Yangtse studio. They were divided into the writer’s group and the illustrator’s group and worked collaboratively on the story. Agay Phurba and the Dancing Cranes is the 11th book under READ Bhutan’s Bhutan Folktale Project.

Agay Phurba & the youths

The Bhutan Folktales Project was launched in 2016 with an aim to promote local stories and encourage youth to become part of the local content creation. 

Bhutan is traditionally an oral society. Earlier when modern forms of entertainment were limited, parents and grandparents entertained and engaged their children by narrating folktales, legends and myths. Besides introducing social customs and traditional beliefs, folktales help readers learn and understand experiences, customs and rituals.  

The project was first implemented in Yanthang in Haa and Rongthong in Trashigang. Four children’s books were published: How Turnips Came to Haa, Akhey Gyem from Yangthang in Haa, Sharchog Gyalpo & Ashi Yangchen and Thakchung Gadpu from Rongthong in Trashigang. 

Encouraged by the success of the first phase of the Bhutan Folktales Project, READ Bhutan carried out the 2nd and the 3rd phase in 2019 and 2021 respectively publishing an additional of six children’s books from 3 different communities. They have published four books in each phase, in both English and Dzongkha languages. The Bhutan Folktale Project has been financially supported by international donors.   

"This is the first time we are working together with a local partner on the documentation and publication of a children’s book. With financial support from the Tourism Council of Bhutan, GEF-7 Eco-tourism Project, READ Bhutan trained 15 youth in Tashi Yangtse to write and illustrate a book focused on the black-necked cranes in the community. 

Through this initiative, the stakeholders aim to build awareness and educate the community, in particular youth and children on black-necked cranes and their habitat. We hope to engage all readers in the preservation and promotion of our rich natural environment and cultural heritage. 2000 copies of Agay Phurba and the Dancing Cranes will be made available in all the schools and resource centers in the country to inspire children and readers to learn about the vulnerable species and the importance of biodiversity and why we need to preserve it.” said Ms Kezang Choden, Country Manager of READ Bhutan

The project is partially funded by READ Bhutan’s donor the Singapore American School in Singapore. Though a children’s book, the facts in the story are relevant to readers of all ages and the publishers hope that it inspires readers to better understand the sacred bird species and help conserve them. 

Bhutan is home to the black-necked cranes in winter months from October to mid-February and has been working towards its conservation for years. There is also a dedicated annual Black-necked Crane Festival held in Phobjikha Valley that includes cultural programs such as folk songs and dances (some with black-necked crane themes) and masked dances performances for locals and visitors to enjoy and also understand the importance of black-necked cranes conservation efforts. 

Donate to READ Bhutan or get involved in projects.

Related Posts

The endangered majestic black-necked cranes are highly honoured...

The Bhutanese believe that the cranes were sent from the heavens as avatars of their ancestors.

Nov 25, 2021 12:35

What are the endangered birds of Bhutan?

Bhutan is home to 26 endangered birds. One of these birds even has its own festival.

Jul 19, 2021 10:35

What went on at Miss Bhutan 2022 preliminary competition

The 3rd edition of Miss Bhutan is underway and the Preliminary Round was held and broadcast live on BBS Channel 2 on...

May 19, 2022 21:11

Check out Drunken Yeti Bar for the best cocktails in Thimphu

Named after a mythical Himalayan creature and perched on top of a distinct and unique 3-storied building in Thimphu,...

May 17, 2022 21:11

“Wine and women are my meditation”: Drukpa Kuenley, the divine...

His phallus was referred to as the “Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom”. He used it to guide people toward enlightenment.

Apr 28, 2022 22:04

Takin: Bhutan's national animal looks like something out of a...

The takin looks like a goat with a sheep’s body. It is so queer-looking that it has been described as a Dr Seuss...

Apr 23, 2022 20:51



Colours Beyond the Wall Volume II: Reformation through Art

‘Do you see the eyes?’ ‘Look closely and you would see the eyes with tears streaming down. And this is the nose,’ Kinga (name changed) said...

Apr 26, 2022 22:01

Travel to Bhutan: go off the beaten path in eastern Bhutan

You will find settlements on high grounds and isolated valleys. You will see rolling hills, deep gorges, and green pastures.

Mar 28, 2022 15:44


What went on at Miss Bhutan 2022 preliminary competition

The 3rd edition of Miss Bhutan is underway and the Preliminary Round was held and broadcast live on BBS Channel 2 on 15th May 2022 from...

May 19, 2022 21:11

Check out Drunken Yeti Bar for the best cocktails in Thimphu

Named after a mythical Himalayan creature and perched on top of a distinct and unique 3-storied building in Thimphu, lies a unique bar that...

May 17, 2022 21:11


The enormous role of hydropower in Bhutan

Bhutan uses hydropower to conserve the environment, produce electricity, and achieve economic self-reliance.

Jan 25, 2022 11:43

Online businesses are becoming more and more popular in Bhutan

Even though the Internet was developed in the 1960s, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was only introduced to it in June 1999.

Jan 20, 2022 12:41


Outstanding individuals, schools and clubs awarded for their contributions to grassroots football

On December 22, 2021, the Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), a bronze member of the AFC Grassroots Charter,presented awards to unsung heroes...

Jan 11, 2022 14:15

Bhutan's national women cricket team won ICC Women's T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier 2021 opening match

The United Arab Emirates is currently hosting the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier. The two ICC Academy grounds in Dubai Sports City...

Nov 23, 2021 11:13


Trace the footsteps of the Divine Madman on this hiking trail

There is no better way to connect spiritually with Drukpa Kuenley, the “Divine Madman”. The trail will take you downhill for about four...

Apr 28, 2022 22:30

Been to Bhutan before? Stand a chance to win FREE flight tickets to back to Bhutan!

If you’ve been to Bhutan before, we want to hear your story.

Apr 15, 2022 19:49


The hot springs of Bhutan are believed to have miraculous healing properties

The Bhutanese believe that hot springs are a blessing from the Buddha.

Apr 08, 2022 21:52

What are the five main fruits in a Bhutanese fruit bowl 'thokay'?

There are usually five fruits that make it to the 'thokay' (fruit bowl) placed on the altars or in front of the King, Chief Abbot and Lamas.

Mar 08, 2022 15:54


A detailed summary of Bhutan's COVID-19 management and plans moving forward

With offices and all businesses open, movement of vehicles allowed and critical services resumed from 21st March 2022, Bhutan braces for a...

Mar 22, 2022 11:23

Vaccinated tourists to undergo 5-day quarantine in Bhutan from April 25

What you need to know about entering Bhutan from April 25.

Mar 14, 2022 14:21

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!