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Day 104: Gantey

Michael Palin - HimalayaToday, though, he is in impatient mood. He wants to show me something of which he's intensely proud. A colony of black-necked cranes, one of the world's rarest birds, winters in this valley.

The black-necked crane was first identified in 1876, by one of the great explorers of the Tibetan plateau, Count Nikolai Przhewalski of the Imperial Russian Army. Of the 16 species of crane, it was the last to be found.

Before 1990 the general estimate was that there were only 800 black-necked cranes in the world. Since China opened up and began to share information that estimate has risen to between 3000 and 5000. They fly down from Tibet and Ladakh every winter and gather here, attracted by the marshy wetland of the valley floor. But there is a complication. The Gantey valley recently discovered a potentially lucrative source of income from the raising of seed potatoes. The soil and air here are free of all the most common diseases from which potatoes suffer, so the seeds are much in demand, especially in India. Plans were afoot to drain the valley and build more farms. Benji fought to prevent the destruction of a unique habitat.

'The government said that, you know, we cannot stop the development of the country for 20 birds. But we found 80 of them.'

He gives a smile of satisfaction.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 104: Gantey
  • Country/sea: Bhutan
  • Place: Gantey
  • Book page no: 240

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