Category Archives: Jomolhari Mountain Festival

Jomolhari Mountain Festival

The festival celebrates the perpetual culture of the nomadic communities living together with the natural world that surrounds them

“A community based initiative towards the conservation of Snow Leopards”

 Jomolhari Mountain Festival is an exquisitely themed two-day event celebrated in the valleys among the clouds, with the proud nomadic communities located along one of the most scenic trekking route in Bhutan.

The festival celebrates the perpetual culture of the nomadic communities living together with the natural world that surrounds them: one in particular, the elusive yet elegant, the Snow Leopard! This strikingly beautiful but endangered cat thrives in this region; several camera trap photos and definite signs have established the region as one of the best snow leopard habitats in Bhutan.

The communities of Soe Yaksa and Soe Yutoed, located along the Jomolhari trek, in collaboration with Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP) and the Nature Recreation and Eco-tourism Division (NRED) – with support from the Snow leopard conservancy (SLC) and Bhutan Foundation – brings together this festival as a community based initiative towards the conservation of the Snow Leopard; to create awareness on the importance of conservation; engage and build on the perception and attitude to create harmony between this endangered cat and the people; provide a platform to bring in economic welfare, sustainable livelihoods and promote their culture as proud nomadic communities.

The Festival includes Snow Leopard themed folk songs and dances performed by the local people, JDNP staff and the school children, traditional sports such as Khuru (darts), shot put, horse and yak riding, local delicacies and boutique handicrafts, and various picturesque mini hikes in and around Jomolhari. It also showcases various stalls set up by both local and international conservation agencies to educate and promote conservation to both the locals and tourist participating at the festival.

The festival was initiated in 2013 and endorsed by the government as an annual festival.

BACKGROUND

JUMOLHARI SNOW LEOPARD CONSERVATION PROGRAM

The Jumolhari trek is one of the most popular trekking routes in Bhutan and passes through prime snow leopard and blue sheep habitat. Numerous camera trap photos, signs, and DNA sampling from the region has established the region as one of the best snow leopard habitats in Bhutan. The two communities of Soe Yutoed and Soe Yaksa lie along the Jumolhari trek. Yutoed has 28 households and Yaksa 18.  The residents are primarily yak herders as the area is mostly above tree line. While yak predation is prevalent in the area, the herders have generally been tolerant of some level of predation all along.  However, public attitudes and perception towards snow leopards are fast changing.

When community members begin to see real, tangible benefits from snow leopard conservation, they are more likely to support it. If a conservation program has buy-in and ownership of the local residents, it is more likely to be sustainable in the long run. These are the foundations on which the Jumolhari Snow Leopard Conservation Program is built.

The Jumolhari Snow Leopard Conservation is a community initiative supported by the Jigme Dorji National Park, the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division, the Snow Leopard Conservancy and the Bhutan Foundation. It aims to guide tangible benefits of snow leopard conservation to the local residents so that the snow leopard is seen as an asset rather than a liability, and hence something to be treasured. It seeks to use the snow leopard as the focus for holistic development of the communities through the following:

  • Reduction of GID disease in yak (one of the highest causes of yak mortality)
  • Offsetting livestock predation through livestock insurance
  • Income generation through homestays
  • Income generation through boutique handicraft
  • Snow leopard and prey monitoring by community members and park
  • Instituting snow leopard festival as main tourism event of the year
  • Using Soe Yutoed School for increasing awareness on snow leopard conservation