Bhutan is one of the last remaining biodiversity hotspots in the world. Forest cover has now increased to over 72% of the country, with 60% of the country under protection. Environmental conservation has been placed at the core of the nation’s development strategy. The array of flora and fauna available in Bhutan is unparalleled due to conservation and its wide altitudinal and climatic range.
Bhutan has a rich primate life, with rare species such as the golden langur. A variant Assamese macaque has also been recorded, which is regarded by some authorities as a new species, acaca munzala. The Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, hispid hare and the sloth bear live in the lush tropical lowland and hardwood forests in the south. In the temperate zone, grey langur, tiger, goral and serow are found in mixed conifer, broadleaf and pine forests. Fruit-bearing trees and bamboo provide habitat for the Himalayan black bear, red panda, squirrel, sambar, wild pig and barking deer. The alpine habitats of the great Himalayan range in the north are home to the snow leopard, blue sheep, marmot, Tibetan wolf, antelope, Himalayan musk deer and the takin, Bhutan’s national animal. The endangered wild water buffalo occurs in southern Bhutan, although in small numbers.
More than 770 species of bird have been recorded in the Kingdom. Bhutan is home to several species that are endangered worldwide. These include the White bellied heron, Pallas Fish eagle, Blyth’s King fisher and White-winged Duc to name a few. Phobjikha valley in Wangdue Phodrang and Bomdeling in Trashi Yangtse are also two especially important locations of the endangered Black Necked Cranes.
Bhutan boasts of about 300 species of medicinal plants and about 46 species of rhododendrons. Some common sights for the visitors are the magnolias, junipers, orchids of varied hues, gentian, medicinal plants, Daphne, giant rhubarb, the blue and trees such as fir, pine and oaks. The number of fungi occurring in Bhutan, including lichen-forming species, is not known but is undoubtedly large, with many species yet to be discovered. Fungi form a key part of Bhutanese ecosystems, with mycorrhizal species providing forest trees with mineral nutrients necessary for growth, and with wood decay and litter decomposing species playing an important role in natural recycling. Ophiocordyceps sinensis is a fungus found in Bhutan on high altitude of particular importance in traditional Chinese medicine, collected in the wild it commands a huge value on the export market.