Bhutan’s Black-Necked Crane Festival Drawing More Foreign Tourists

Email

Some 500 tourists from around the world came to Bhutan to see the Black-Necked Crane festival, exceeding the number of locals.

(Source: William Chua)

 

By Chimi Dema | Kuensel

Standing tall, the magnificent Gangtey Monastery glowed in the early morning sun which shone over the Phobjikha valley with its pristine forests, subsistence farmlands and the black-necked cranes.

The much revered cranes went about their usual business, oblivious to the grand celebration in their honour and the large gathering at the courtyard.

Their occasional shrill calls got drowned in the crowd as people hustle and jostle in the courtyard for the celebrations to begin.

The villagers of Gangtey and Phobji gewogs (villages) arrived, dressed in their finest, carrying baskets stuffed with food and drinks. Visitors and tourists settled comfortably, readying their cameras to capture pictures of the locals and festivities.

They had come together to rejoice in the arrival of the black-necked cranes, an endangered species highly revered by the locals as heavenly birds, also known being a symbol of marital fidelity and prosperity.

Set against the clear, deep blue sky, the Black-Necked Crane festival highlighted the importance of conserving the species and its habitat while promoting eco-tourism for local communities at the same time.

Background of the Black-Necked Crane festival

Inspired by the visionary leadership of His Majesty The Fourth King who advocated environmental conservation, the festival is held annually on 11 November, to coincide with the birth anniversary of His Majesty. The locals said that this makes the occasion even more special and exciting.

The Royal Society for Protection of Nature organised the first festival in 1998 as part of the integrated conservation and development programme.

 

Source: Youtube/RoundGlass Journeys

 

The festival is also an occasion for villagers to renew their commitment to further conserve the beloved cranes. Organised by the dzongkhag administration, in collaboration with the Gangtey-Phobji environment management committee which comprises of several local stakeholders.

Black-Necked Crane festival is a good source of income for the locals

For Aum Sangay Dem, an elderly woman and the owner of a Homestay in Khewang village, Gangtey, crane conservation has been a windfall.

By offering homestay services, she earns more than Nu 15,000 from guests, particularly during the festival.

With Gangtey-Phobji wetland becoming the largest roosting ground for the cranes, supplemented by better conservation initiatives, Aum Sangay Dem said that the surge in the number of eco-tourists and birders in the valley has increased over the years.

“I make the maximum income during this time of the year as many tourists from across the world and birders come here to watch the birds,” she said.

By hosting such a festival in the locality, it is also an opportunity for the locals to showcase the culture and traditions, including handicrafts, food, and livestock.

Some stalls outside the festival ground displayed local products such as local cheese, honey, chilli pickles, highland vegetables and bamboo woven baskets, among others.

Favoured by the warmth of the brilliant sun, the festival venue echoed with laughter and the sounds of festivities such as folk songs, strong women competition, tug-of-war, and mask dances performed by monks.

As usual, the highlight of the festival was the locally choreographed ‘Crane Courtship Dance’ performed by the school children of the locality.

Donning crane costumes, children mimic the cranes by bobbing their heads and flapping their wings to the music, accompanied by the trumpeting calls of the birds.

Locals say that the cranes perform this dance when they arrive in Phobjikha from the Tibetan Plateau.

While the birds arrived late this year, about 50 of them managed to make it in time for the festival, with the first couple of cranes landing in the valley on 2 November.

A resident of Phobji gewog, Chado Gyeltshen remembered only some 100 cranes arriving in the wetlands when he was young.

 

Photo: Trek Earth

 

However, in the recent years, Phobjikha have seen the highest count with approximately 500 individuals arriving every winter.

An official with the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature said that the increase could be due to the population growth of black-necked cranes globally.

While the locals attribute the increase to the warming of climate adding that it makes places at lower altitudes suitable habitats for the birds in winter.

“It could also be attributed to awareness and outreach programmes on the endangered species that have contributed to the conservation of a good habitat,” another resident said.

Black-necked crane sightings are auspicious symbols

In Phobjikha, farmers believe that if a crane flies over a farm, it will bring good harvest and prosperity.

During winter, the cranes become part of the locals’ daily lives, as they feed and roost on the peripheral sloped farmlands where potatoes and turnips are grown in the summer.

These endearing birds also hold special spiritual connections to the villagers. According to Chado Gyeltshen, before the birds descend upon Phobjikha valley on its arrival, they will circumambulate the Gangtey Monastery thrice and repeat the same while leaving.

“We believe that they are the reincarnation of the guardian deities of our valley and to us, this act represents the honouring of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the objects of refuge,” he explained.

Owing to its rare and vulnerable nature, the presence of the cranes in the country has been attracting more international tourists than before. Some 500 tourists from around the world came to Bhutan to see the Black-Necked Crane festival, exceeding the number of locals.

Helma Lodder, a tourist from the Netherlands planned her first visit to Bhutan specially to coincide with the festival.

“The climate is changing and the environment is degrading in the world now and therefore, any celebration pertaining to the preservation of nature and biodiversity seems fascinating to me,” she said.

 

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

 

 


Related Posts

‘Heavenly Birds’ Which Do Not Forsake Their Own Kind, Bumdeling...

As of 21 December, 83 cranes have arrived in the in Bumdeling Valley.

Dec 24, 2018 15:23

Three Black-Necked Cranes In Bhutan Tagged With GPS Transmitters...

The data collected, officials say, will be invaluable for the protection of this endangered species.

Feb 10, 2019 19:11

Phobjikha Valley Sees Increasing Number Of Black-Necked Cranes –...

Since October, close to 270 black-necked cranes have already arrived in the Phobjikha Valley.

Nov 28, 2018 20:23

Discover The Wonders Of The Black-Necked Crane Festival – A Day...

This unique festival will leave a lasting impression on you. With more than a hundred villagers participating, see the...

Nov 09, 2018 21:39

Phobjikha Residents Support Black-Necked Crane Conservation

According to a study on the conservation of black-necked cranes and its perceived trade-offs in Phobjikha Valley, 75...

Dec 08, 2017 15:09

The Black-Necked Crane Festival

The arrival of the black-neck cranes signals the coming of winter and plays an integral role in the daily lives of the...

Nov 01, 2017 13:54

Latest

News

The sacrifice of an extraordinary King in these difficult times

“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” – John Wooden

Jun 14, 2021 16:57

Bhutan is hopeful of lifting restrictions on tourism after second dose of COVID-19 vaccination

It’s been 9-week since the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Bhutan.

Jun 04, 2021 13:20

Features

6 reasons to get your very own 'Bhutan: Travelog'

A book that will tell you everything you need to know, see, taste, do, and enjoy in Bhutan? Take my money!

Jun 16, 2021 12:37

What are the 13 traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts?

“Were I to epitomise Bhutanese art with one word, that word would be colour... The attention to detail, the symmetry of figures…and above...

Jun 09, 2021 11:17

Business

Support authentic Bhutanese handicrafts by local artisans

Whether you are interested in artisanal Bhutanese handicrafts or boutique sourced products with contemporary touch, the incredible...

Mar 25, 2021 12:09

Authentic Bhutanese Souvenirs from Eastern Bhutan

Every district and village produce distinct products in Bhutan. To encourage rural communities to produce more authentic souvenirs and...

Dec 25, 2020 22:13

Sports

What's with the unique archery culture in Bhutan?

In Bhutan, archery is more than just a sport. It is a way of life. The dancing, the singing, the drinking—it is a manifestation of the...

Apr 19, 2021 10:40

Contributing to the country through the love for football

It's been a month since the conclusion of Bhutan Premier League 2020. Daily Bhutan interviews Paro FC to find out more about the club. Below...

Dec 21, 2020 17:05

Travel

Bhutan is the perfect destination for luxury travel

The definition of 'luxury travel' has changed because of COVID-19.

Jun 01, 2021 18:32

8 most popular festivals in Bhutan that you should check out

Bhutanese festivals are colourfully vibrant affairs that draw crowds from all over the world.

May 14, 2021 17:15

Lifestyle

What are some of the Bhutanese beliefs and superstitions

For a country deeply rooted in spirituality, you will find Bhutanese especially the Buddhist rely on astrology for major events in life....

May 25, 2021 11:17

Khata: The multipurpose Bhutanese scarf

“Khatas are the Buddhist equivalent of a hallmark card.” —Married to Bhutan by Linda Leaming

Apr 29, 2021 10:53

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!