By end of 2012, RSPN will complete 25 years of service in conservation of environment in Bhutan.
To commemorate 25 years of RSPN’s service to the environment, RSPN is pleased to launch its Silver Jubilee logo.
The logo represents all the thematic areas RSPN worked in the last 25 years. The flying black-necked crane represents the flag-ship species that RSPN initially started its work in species conservation.
We have depicted White-bellied heron since we achieved a landmark in the history of White-bellied heron when RSPN artificially raised a chick and successfully released to the wild in September 2011. It is also critically endangered species that has entered into The Guinness Book of World Records as the rarest bird. The mountains covered with snow represent RSPN’s engagement in climate change projects. The river represents RSPN’s project on water, watershed management and conservation of wetlands.
The logo, therefore, depicts all components of ecosystem which is interdependent on each other.
This year, The Royal Society for Protection of Nature celebrates its silver jubilee, commemorating the pioneer NGO’s 25 years of work in environmental conservation and environment education in Bhutan.
RSPN was founded in 1987 by Dasho Peljor J Dorji, commonly known as Dasho Benji, with the permission from the Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. In the early years, the Society focused on engaging youth through nation-wide art and essay competitions on environmental themes. RSPN also began an annual count of Black-necked Cranes, rare birds who make their winter home in Bhutan, primarily in the Bomedeling and Phobjikha valleys. Dasho Benji worked with friends in the government and international organizations, especially the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to strengthen the young Society.
In the ’90s, RSPN primarily focused on Environmental Education. RSPN created a network of Nature Clubs, groups within selected schools that carried out environmental activities. In the absence of any formalized environmental curriculum, these clubs provided the main opportunity for children to learn about nature, and to identify and address issues in their own communities. RSPN supported the clubs financially and through teacher trainings and environmental camps. In 2009, the Nature Clubs were institutionalized with the Ministry of Education, ensuring that every school in the nation would have this opportunity. RSPN worked to develop materials for the Clubs, and is still engaged with teacher trainings, most recently creating and Environmental Studies curriculum for the two teacher’s colleges in Paro and Samtse. RSPN is also expanding its education efforts to monastic institutions, and will be working to establish Nature Clubs in Shedras throughout the country this year.
RSPN’s other major program has been the Integrated Conservation and Development Program, now known as Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods Program, initiated in 1999. The program aims to look for opportunities to combine environmental stewardship with community development initiatives. Focused initially in the Phobjikha valley, RSPN worked to serve the community even as it protected the primary home of the Black-necked Crane. Projects included biodiversity surveys, crane monitoring and a management plan for the Conservation Area; creating local environmental management and women in environment committees; providing solar panels and helping bring below-ground electricity to the region; capacity building and infrastructure development. Perhaps the most famous RSPN initiative is the Black-necked Crane Festival, held every year in November to celebrate the birds’ arrival in the valley and promote ecotourism. In 2007, RSPN expanded its working area to Wamrong-Kangpara in Tashigang Dzongkhag, replicating and adapting the successful Phobjikha program to a new region. Programs in the East include afforestation and reforestation efforts; environmental education activities; community forest establishment; and a new approach to community response to the human-wildlife conflict. Expansion of similar holistic programs to Zhemgang Dzongkhag is in the plan for this coming year.
Since its days as a one-man show operating from Dasho Benji’s living room, RSPN’s capacity as an organization has grown considerably. Throughout the ’90s, RSPN struggled to define itself and raise funds – as a pioneer NGO, it struggled with legal and mission definition. Executive Director Dr. Kinlay Dorjee, and later his successor and current director Dr. Lam Dorji, made great strides by obtaining legal status, initiating strategic planning processes and the creating a one million US dollar endowment fund. RSPN expanded its network of national and international partners and donors, making it more effective at home and more vocal abroad. These steps, along with staff recruitment and capacity training, earned the organization a MacArthur Foundation “MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions” in 2010. As Bhutan faces new and increasing environmental threats and transitions to democracy, RSPN will have to continue its hard work to identify and address conservation challenges. The silver jubilee provides an opportunity to celebrate past triumphs while renewing RSPN’s commitment to being a strong environmental advocate going forward, continuing the mission of inspiring personal responsibility and involvement in nature conservation among the citizens of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
RSPN’s history and achievements will be documented in a book to be released at the time of the celebration, in October 2012.