Bhutan is such a botanical paradise that one of its ancient names meant ‘Land of Medicinal Herbs’. About 72% of the kingdom is still covered with forest including 26% designated as protected areas and 9% biological corridors. In this regard, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan mandates a minimum of 60% of the country’s total land be maintained under forest cover for all time.
Bhutan has been declared as one of ten global ‘hot-spots’ for the conservation of biological biodiversity. Climatic variations coupled with the huge changes in altitude, make Bhutan a country with an extremely rich flora, which include over 50 species of rhododendron, over 300 species of medicinal plants, mostly alpine, and 600 species of orchids. Many ecologists believe that Bhutan represents the last best chance for conservation in the Eastern Himalayas, a region considered to be of critical importance to the global efforts to conserve biological diversity.
There are over 165 species of animals (mammals) and about 770 species of birds have been recorded in Bhutan, and more than 16 different species of birds are included in the lists of endangered species. Fauna also varies with the different types of vegetation and is abundant since the great majority of Bhutanese neither hunt nor fish in accordance with the religion. The dense forest provides heaven to a wealth of exotic wildlife and is a last refuge for the endangered species like Black-necked Crane, the Blue Sheep, the Golden Langur and even the Royal Bengal Tiger to name a few.
Bhutan is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for ornithologists. The birders from the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature, a local NGO and the Nature Conservation Division of the Ministry of Agriculture conduct studies on bird life. Bhutan boasts of a bird list of nearly 650 species. One of the rare species spotted is the Black-necked Cranes migrating in winters from Central Asiatic Plateau into the valleys of Phobjikha in Wangdue, Bumdeling in Trashiyangtse and Gyetsa in Bumthang.