In Bhutanese folklore, Drukpa Kunley stands out as a popular protagonist. Famed for miracles and supposed magical ability, he was a Tibetan Buddhist lama whose unconventional method of teaching earned him the title of the "Divine Madman". Drukpa Kunley used humor, satire, and outrageous acts to convey Buddhist teachings in a way that would resonate with the common people.


One of the most famous stories associated with Drukpa Kunley involves the creation of the national animal of Bhutan, the Takin. According to legend, Drukpa Kunley was visiting Bhutan around the 16thcentury and was requested by the local people to perform a miracle to prove his divine powers. In response, he asked for a whole cow and a goat to eat. After consuming both animals, he picked out the bones of the goat and the cow and with a snap of his fingers and recitation of mantras, miraculously brings them back to life as a strange, unique creature, which we now know as Dong Gyem Tsey or Takin.


This tale exemplifies Drukpa Kunley's unconventional approach to teaching and his ability to connect with people through humor and mysticism. The Takin is now not only a symbol of Bhutan's natural heritage but also a reminder of the colorful folklore and spiritual traditions of the country.


The Takin is as intriguing as the legend itself.  At first glance, this mind-boggling creature appears to have a cow's body with a face similar to a goat or a sheep with a moose-like snout. Interestingly, the British naturalist Brian Houghton Hudson, who identified the Takin for Western science in the mid-19th century, never saw one himself. Instead, he based his identification on the Takin skin brought by hunters, which further contributed to the mystery surrounding the Takin.


Beyond its mythical nature, the Takin exhibits remarkable survival tactics. Acting as a natural alarm system, Takins emit a distinctive "cough" to warn the herd of impending danger, facilitating a swift escape into the safety of the dense forest. Additionally, their skin secretes an oily, bitter substance, protecting the mammal from fog and rain.


Despite these adaptations, the Takin faces threats to its existence, leading to its classification as Vulnerable on the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The destruction of its habitat and the hunting for its hide and meat contributes to the threat of its conservation status.


However, Bhutan has expanded its conservation efforts to safeguard its distinctive wildlife, particularly the Takin. Guided by Buddhist principles that prioritize the well-being of both humans and nature, Bhutan has seamlessly incorporated nature conservation into its policies. At the heart of Bhutan's biodiversity, the Motithang Takin Preserve in Thimphu serves as a sanctuary for at least 17Takins.


In the broader context of global tourism, the preservation of unique species like the Takin contributes to the appeal of Bhutan as a destination that values both cultural heritage and environmental sustainability. As travellers increasingly seek destinations with a commitment to conservation and sustainability, Bhutan's efforts to safeguard the Takin become a compelling aspect of its tourism appeal, demonstrating the potential for tourism to align with and support conservation goals.