Secretariat is delighted to welcome Bhutan to the Ramsar family as its 161st Contracting Party - UNESCO has confirmed that the instrument of accession and the names and maps of two Wetlands of International Importance were received on 7 May, so that the Convention will come into force for Bhutan on 7 September 2012. Official data on the Ramsar Information Sheets for the Ramsar Sites Database is still being prepared by the government, but in the meantime we have some brief unofficial descriptions of the fascinating sites.
Bumdeling, above 1,850 meters, is in one of the glacial valleys in Bhutan and is the chosen winter home of some 158 rare Black-necked Cranes, which migrate here from the Tibetan plateau. The fairly isolated valley of Bumdeling is at a much lower altitude than rest of the crane wintering areas in Bhutan. It was officially declared a conservation area in 1998 as the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS) in Trashiyangtse district in the northeast of the country.
The present feeding grounds extend from Japang in the north to Chorten Kora in the south, and the current roosting area lies on the west bank of Kulong Chu, just above the confluence of the Nagpola Chu and the Kulong Chu. The area consists of a sandy plain with gravel and pebble bars frequently occurring at the edge of the water. Normally cranes seem to prefer to roost in sites with wide and unobstructed view with minimal human disturbance. They also prefer to spend the night on gravel banks with their feet in water.
Apart from feeding in the paddy fields cranes also use marshy areas available in the valley, which are also potentially important for other waterbirds such as Mallard, Gadwall, Common Teal, Crested Kingfisher White-throated Kingfisher, Ibis bill, and Great Cormorant.
Khotokha, at an average altitude of 2,617 meter, is one of the three broad highland valleys in the Wangdue Dzongkhag, west of the Black Mountain Range It lies adjacent to Phobjikha valley with a flat or gently sloping area of about 1,500 meters long and 500-800 meters wide. It is an open valley with a small stream on the western side and the houses and fields mostly on the eastern side. There is no motor road connection to Khotokha, but there are many footpaths to the valley from all directions. Since 1983, a ropeway has served between Chuzomsa and Tashila and thus to the east-west highway to transport timber and potato from the valley. The Tashila Ropeway also transports people and goods in the morning and evening hours. The half-hour ride provides a great sense of adventure as the open wooden box sails over dizzying mountain heights.
Entering the Khotokha valley, one finds pure conifer forest mainly of blue pines. The wide open grassland is the traditional grazing area of the people of Bjena and Rubesa gewogs. All agricultural land in Khotokha is dry land, and the important crops are wheat, buckwheat, potato, and chilli. The valley is too high in altitude for rice to grow.
The roosting area is a marshy area with fairly thick growth of dwarf bamboo in the middle of the grassland along the streams that flows towards the south of the valley. The cranes forage freely throughout the area's fields and grasslands.