Press Release: A new hope for the White-bellied Herons

Developing Ecosystem-based Solutions for Managing Biodiversity Landscapes in Bhutan

A new ray of hope for the Critically Endangered White-bellied Heron (WBH), as the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) commenced a Euro 4.11 million project “Developing Ecosystem-based Solutions for Managing Biodiversity Landscapes in Bhutan”, with effect from July 1, 2021. 

White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis Hume, 1878) is one of the rarest birds in the world with an estimated population of fewer than 60 individuals and inhabit the freshwater riverine ecosystems of the Himalayas. Bhutan, as one of the hotspots for the White-bellied Heron, hosts almost half the population in the river basins of Punatsangchhu and Mangdechhu. Recognizing the urgency, RSPN initiated the conservation of WBH under the Royal Command from His Majesty Fourth Druk Gyalpo, in 2003. The conservation effort towards saving the WBH is being supported by the Royal Government of Bhutan, international partners, local communities, and philanthropic members. Despite rigorous efforts, the population of WBH has been declining. 

The project aims to establish approaches and tools for protecting and managing habitats for the WBH in collaboration with the hydropower projects and communities. The project also focuses on supporting alternative economic and employment opportunities, to strengthen community support for WBH conservation activities, through a community incentive-based and participatory approach to project planning and implementation. 

The project is being implemented by RSPN in collaboration with the Royal Government of Bhutan and communities of Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Tsirang, Dagana, Trongsa and Zhemgang districts along the Punatsangchhu and Mangdechhu are the direct beneficiaries. This five-year project is funded by the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Germany through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) with co-funding from MAVA Foundation, Switzerland and RSPN.

The meeting was held on September 2, 2021, at RSPN Head Office, Thimphu. All implementing partners and stakeholders attended the meeting.