May 15, 2019

US Ambassador to India Visits the Palace Project

It was one year to the date of the US Ambassador’s visit to the Wangduechhoeling Palace that we were going through a brainstorming and planning session about the conservation of palace paintings with local conservators and international experts. We adopted several methodologies to carry out conservation and consolidation of paintings on the walls and timber components of the palace. After a year, we are pleased to report that conservation work is well underway, thanks to our collaboration with the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.

Last week, Hon. Kenneth I. Juster, the US Ambassador to India, made an unprecedented visit to the Bumthang valley during a three-day official visit to Bhutan. While there, the Bhutan Foundation hosted Ambassador Juster at Wangduechhoeling Palace, the birthplace of Bhutan’s monarchy and one of the most important historical monuments in the country.

Our conservation and adaptive reuse project, which is currently underway at the palace, has received generous support from the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation in previous years. This support has laid a firm foundation in carrying out conservation works through detailed structural condition assessment and architectural documentation, conservation and consolidation of Shabkhor (surrounding structure around the central tower) and Chhukhor Mani (water-run prayer wheels). 

At the moment, conservation works are being carried out on the magnificent carvings and paintings on the façade of the palace including the frames of the timber windows and wall murals, that are rapidly deteriorating and are in danger of being damaged beyond repair. Wangduechhoeling Palace provides an opportunity to restore a unique heritage site which will allow Bhutanese and international visitors to have a window to a very special part of Bhutan’s history. 

Our Visits to Tanzaima and Norbugang

Tanzaima is well known for being an elephant and tiger hotspot in Bhutan, which has led to human-wildlife conflict over the past few years as major elephant migration routes pass through the area. In an attempt to alleviate some of these issues, the Global Tiger Center (GTC) supported the installation of electric fencing for the community to establish boundaries and corridors for the elephants to travel through. The success of this program is still in the evaluation phase, but the team is hopeful that human-elephant conflict will diminish with the creation of these new routes. 

As for the community itself, the use of agro-chemicals is minimal in Tanzaima and local residents are currently aspiring toward dairy product sales as a business model in the coming years. This change-up in revenue stream from the previously largely agrarian model could also decrease conflict between the species caused by crop destruction from elephant migration and eating habits. 

Last month, a team from the Bhutan Foundation took a project familiarization trip to these areas. In addition to this elephant-friendly trip through Tanzaima, the team took time to visit the Norbugang community on their way to Panbang, where they discussed a wide range of issues and opportunities to foster the conservation program in the area. As previously reported, with the intervention from the Bhutan Foundation and other conservation agencies, such as the Department of Forests and Park Services and the GTC, many wildlife poachers in Norbugang have publicly renounced their poaching. Since then, three of these individuals have already started a retreat in newly completed cottages under the guidance of their community religious leader. With projects like these underway, the monastery in Norbugang will continue to play an important role in garnering and maintaining community support for the conservation program. 

As supplementary business projects continue to take foot over the next few years, we are optimistic about the positive impacts that income diversification and recognized human-wildlife cohabitation could have on not just Norbugang, but other local villages in poaching hotspots as well. 

Gearing Up for International Tiger Day 2019

As an exciting new development in the realm of tiger conservation awareness, the Bhutan Foundation will be supporting the Global Tiger Center (GTC) in joining the international community’s observation of International Tiger Day on July 29, 2019. During the celebration, GTC will organize an Art and Story Writing Competition for primary school children across the country, wherein students will have the opportunity to create original works for the chance to win prizes. The best of these evaluated stories and art works will be developed into a reader and distributed to schools across Bhutan as official educational materials, allowing students the chance to learn from peer-developed works.  The guidelines for this competition, developed originally by the GTC, were reviewed and finalized by the Bhutan Foundation team while visiting Gelephu during this trip. The results of the competition will be posted by August 15, 2019, so be sure to follow us on social media @bhutanfdn to keep in touch with the most updated pictures and stories from the field!

Signed,

Tashi Dukpa and Kinga Wangdi