Conservation delivers sweeping benefits in the Eastern Himalayas

Magazine spread showing photo of man in Bhutan

May 2015

Our “Bhutan Rising” feature took readers to the forests, mountains, and rivers of the Eastern Himalayas, rich with cultural significance and remarkable wildlife. There, the Royal Government of Bhutan and partners like WWF were busy developing Bhutan for Life, an unprecedented conservation initiative that would permanently finance the protection of the country’s ecosystems while fostering economic stability for its people. Now recognized as a role model for projects around the globe, Bhutan for Life offers lessons for conservation on a national scale.


The vast Bhutan for Life initiative is made up of many carefully coordinated conservation efforts. For example, when invasive grasses threatened the health of the Kanamakura grasslands in Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan for Life supported clearing and replanting efforts. Since then, Kanamakura has seen an increase in wildlife.


Species conservation is a primary goal of Bhutan for Life. Funding from this initiative has revived waterholes, created salt licks, and promoted grasslands in protected areas and biological corridors with the aim of improving tiger habitat and protecting wildlife—and it seems to be working. In 2019, a camera trap photographed a tiger in a part of Bhutan where the big cats had likely been absent for 15 years.


To bolster ecotourism as a source of economic prosperity aligned with Bhutan’s conservation goals, Bhutan for Life has funded the creation of ecotourism amenities, such as toilets, waste bins, trail maps, and a comprehensive bird-spotting field guide. Some 10,000 people—over half of them women—have participated in Bhutan for Life’s trainings on environmental conservation, waste management, and hospitality.


The Royal Government of Bhutan has met its financial commitments to the initiative each year, despite recent global economic uncertainty. The government’s determination to fund this work underscores the priority it puts on the initiative’s success.

A large white and black bird flying


The Bumdeling Valley holds an internationally important wetland where black-necked cranes feed and roost. Unfortunately, flash flooding in the area had washed away much-needed avian habitat—and wrecked nearby paddy fields. A 2021 Bhutan for Life-funded bioengineering project planted native trees between wetlands and fields to save this essential wildlife habitat and protect the 40 households whose livelihoods rely on the crops.

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