Black-necked Crane festival
The picturesque valley of Phobjikha in Wangduephodrang is the winter roosting ground for the globally endangered Black-necked Cranes (Grus nigricollis). At 3000 meters above the sea level, Phobjikha valley is one of the biggest wetland areas in Bhutan.
Locally known as Thrung Thrung, the Black-necked Cranes migrate to the valley from the Tibetan Plateau, crossing the great Himalayas, in late October. These winter visitors roost in some 2,027 hectares of wetland in Phobjikha and depart in February. Of the estimated 11,000 global Black-necked Crane population, 500 of them fly to winter habitats of Bumdeling in Trashiyangtse, Chumey in Bumthang and Phobjikha in Wangdue.
As a part of the conservation effort, the Phobjikha valley has been a declared a protected area. The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) and Phobjikha Environment Management Committee, a local group, have built artificial roost for the safety of the cranes. It is said that even a slight movement of the water by the predators warns the cranes to fly to safety.
As an integral part of eco-tourism, people of Gangtey and Phobjikha celebrate the arrival of the Black-necked Cranes in November every year. Started in 1998, the Black-necked Crane Festival attracts both local and tourists to rejoice the winged winter visitors. During the annual event, tourists are welcomed with folk songs and dances themed on the majestic cranes besides environmental conservation-themed dramas and songs by school children.
In an effort towards conservation of the endangered cranes, the festival serves as a platform to inform people on the endangered Black‐necked Cranes besides strengthening linkages between conservation, economic welfare and sustainable livelihoods of the community. The festival also provides an avenue for local community to renew their commitment to conservation of the cranes, and to showcase their cultural heritage and skills.
There is more to Phobjikha valley than the Black-necked Cranes. Phobjikha valley is also home to a host of vulnerable species such as the Rufous-necked Hornbill, Chestnut-breasted Partridge mandellii, and Pallas’s Fish-eagle, among others. In fact, the valley boasts a rich flora and fauna.
When in Phobjikha, you can hike through the pristine nature, visit handicraft shops showcasing the valley’s exquisite craft works, and also visit the majestic Gangtey Gonpa (monastery).