Takin, Bhutan’s national animal may find a home at the Smithsonian Institution’s national zoo in Washington DC if all goes well.
The government claims they have yet to receive the proposal that Smithsonian Institution and the Bhutan Foundation submitted.
Officials of Bhutan’s permanent mission to the United Nations in New York said they already submitted the proposal in March this year to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for considerations.
In an earlier interview with Kuensel, Bhutan’s ambassador, Lhatu Wangchuk, said he strongly recommended considering the proposal as it would, besides promoting Bhutan also serve as a gift from the people of Bhutan to the people of the United States of America.
The proposal was submitted after officials of the Smithsonian Institution’s national zoo expressed a strong interest in housing a Takin exhibit in a very prominent place – next to the giant pandas, as part of its ‘Asia Trials’ exhibit.
“A pair of Bhutan Takin would be an excellent addition to the exhibit as animal ambassadors of Bhutan,” Lhatu Wangchuk said. “They’d represent a unique hoofed mammal well adapted to the mountains of Asia, and the national animal of Bhutan.”
Director of Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington DC Dennis W Kelly said they had already designed and designated a specific part of the zoo for Bhutan’s national animal.
“We’ve even mobilised some funds for the Takin exhibit,” he said in June.
The government, however, claimed to be unaware of the proposal.
Agriculture minister Dr Pema Gyamtsho said without looking at the details of the proposal the government was unable to make a statement of its stand. “I haven’t receive the proposal nor I have seen it,” he said during the 15th meet the press session on July 28.
Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley said there were many issues and questions that required consideration.
Expressing his concern, Lyonchhoen said in the case of transfer of wildlife from one country to another and in the case of leasing or selling or gifting animals by one country to another, many legal as well as medical considerations had to be taken.
For instance, he said the Chinese had arrangement to supply Pandas to certain zoos, but the terms and conditions governing the importation and the transfer were such that, among others, if there was a birth, the zoo could not keep it.
“It has to be returned to China,” Lyonchhoen said. “Right now, I think the foot and mouth disease is a major concern.”
For these very reasons, the national zoo also indicated that animals can be sourced from other zoos in the US and Europe, which already have the Bhutanese Takin.
“This is also preferred because of lesser bureaucracy related to quarantine issues, permits, and concerns for diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease,” the Smithsonian Institution and the Bhutan Foundation proposal stated. “Bhutan only has to agree in principle to be connected to the exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington DC.”
Bhutan Foundation officials said more than 3 million visitors pass through the zoo every year, and most people came to view the giant Pandas.
As the Takin exhibit will be right next to the Pandas, they said, it would also gain significant traffic and exposure.
They also said if Bhutan was uninterested, the exhibit could also be on Chinese Takins, which were readily available.
Bhutan Foundation’s conservation adviser at Washington DC Tshewang R Wangchuk said the Bhutan Takin, found only in Bhutan, was one of four sub-species of Takins that existed in Asia.
“They are geographically isolated from the other Takins,” he said.
The Mishmi, Szechuan, and Golden takins are the other sub-species, and are found in north-east India, Myanmar and China.
Meanwhile, Bhutan Foundation office in Thimphu will follow up on the proposal with the foreign ministry this week.