The second annual Mt. Jomolhari festival

Participants8-9 October, Soe: The two days festive occasion, particularly for the residents of northern community living in close proximity to snow leopard habitat joined by tourist, government officials, officials from Bhutan Foundation, Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) and the public of Soe and Tshento gewogs celebrated the culture and tradition of the high land people thereby also educating the community on the importance of conservation of the endangered snow leopard and their age old traditions and customs.

The second Mt. Jomolhari festival took place at Dangojang near Jomolhari base camp under Soe Park Range of Jigme Dorji National Park (JDNP). The festival is a community based initiative collaborated by JDNP and the Nature Recreation and Ecotourism Division (NRED) which was funded by the Bhutan Foundation.

The Mt. Jomolhari festival is an initiative to conserve the Snow Leopard which is primarily found in the Jomolhari area involving Soe Yaksa and Soe Yutoed communities. It aims to create harmony between the endangered Snow Leopard species and the local community by helping generate income and their livelihood through its conservation. The festival also aims at promoting Bhutan’s rich natural heritage and the local culture and tradition in order to promote tourism opportunities in the Jomolhari region. It further encourages the community for yak herding tradition thereby promoting its dairy products, creating awareness on high land biodiversity conservation, waste management at the same time promoting the wildlife conservation through community support.

The first day of the festival started with the showcasing of cultural program by the students of Jomolhari school followed by the local tribute song ‘Yak ley bai Lhadar Gao’ by the Yaksa community. The day also saw the opening of the stalls by Drangpon Ramjam of Lingzhi Drungkhag and the sporting events competition like shot put, Khuru, Horse and yak riding and documentary film screening consisting of conservation knowledge which was screened towards evening.

The second day of the festival included trekking to the most exciting and the popular routes in Bhutan. The participants were divided in a group of four based on their choices of trekking which involved visit to twin lakes of Tshophu with Mt. Jichudrakey and Mt. Tsherim gang view, hike to Lhaliphu scaling the Mt. Jomolhari glaciers, hike to Bagala to experience the glaciers of Mt. Jichudrakey and the lastly visit to Thomphuna to see the camera trap locations for Snow Leopard monitoring. The day was also followed by the cultural programs, skits on conservation strategies and the Ngyegoe dendur of the Highlanders which is increasingly gaining popularity in the communities.

While speaking to the locals, they said that the festival is an opportunity for them to mingle and a platform to learn more. One of them also highlighted that such festive moment be continued through generations which not only helps them generate income but also helps them to stay updated.

Reported by Tashi Yangzom and Photo by Choidup Zangpo, ICS

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