TRASHIYANGTSE, BHUTAN (KUENSEL/ANN) – It is farewell time in Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse. Out on their balconies, residents, old and young, wave as the last of the black-necked cranes leave the village.
As the visitors soar above the village, make some circles and disappear over the hills, children shout “bye bye” and parents pray for the safe returns of the birds.
It was an official farewell to the last batch of the eight birds that left Bumdeling on February 29.
Villagers of Bumdeling county and others arrived dressed in fine ghos and kiras (attires for men and women) to see off the cranes that have for years become a part of the community and important guests.
There was a celebration too with the students of Bumdeling Lower Secondary School performing a crane courtship dance donning costumes that make them look like cranes. Students also sang a Thrung Thrung song.
It is the first time they had come together to bid farewell to the black-necked cranes, the endangered species highly revered by local people as heavenly birds. They also believe that it is symbol of marital fidelity and lucky birds.
The official farewell highlighted the importance of conserving the species and improving its habitat along the banks of Kholongchhu in Bumdeling. It was also an occasion for villagers to take the ownership and renew their commitment to conserve the cranes.
Officials from Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary said that in the past they celebrated BNC festival on arrival like in Phobjikha, the other popular crane roosting ground.
Park Manager, Karma Tempa, said it was everybody’s responsibility to protect the endangered birds. “The farewell with a celebration was to create awareness on conservation.”
Karma Tempa said there were no injuries or causalities reported for about a decade while the visitors were in Bumdeling. “Every year, we protect them well and ensure they fly well to the Tibetan plateau, their summer habitat.”
However, officials said that the number of cranes visiting Bumdeling is decreasing every year and only about 93 birds came to Bumdeling this winter. This is down by 50 per cent from 1987.
“Disturbance of feeding and rooting grounds could have resulted in the decreasing number of cranes,” he said. “Within two years, we have restrained 10 acres of feeding ground.”
Trashiyangtse Dzongrab Gom (Senior District Administrator Assistant) Lam Dorji, highlighted the importance of conversation and taking ownership of cranes.
Residents of Bumdeling are fortunate to be included in the conservation group as the bird is found only in Bhutan, India and China.
He said the dzongkhag is planning to start an eco-lodge in Bumdeling in the current fiscal year. “We would hand over this to the public and employ the youth of Bumdeling.”
Local people said that bidding farewell to crane makes the occasion more special and exciting. A resident, 72-year-old, Bumpa Tshering said that the birds hold special spiritual connection to the villagers.
“Before the birds descend on Bumdeling valley on its arrival, they circumambulate the Rigsum Goenpa and fly over same place. They bring luck with them.”