White-bellied Heron Conservation

The Royal Society of Protection of Nature has been involved in the White-bellied Heron conservation project since 2003. Over the years much has been understood about  their status, potential threats and conservation options in Bhutan.

As a critically endangered species in the world, it is very important to protect it and its natural habitat. The initiative has helped establish two important WBH habitat areas in Bhutan: 1) Punatsangchu basin, Wangduephodrang  Dzongkhag and 2) Berti, Zhemgang Dzongkhag.

At present there are 4 individuals in Berti and 26 in Punatsangchu basin. With 30 individuals of this species in their natural habitat, Bhutan plays a pioneering role in protecting the critically endangered white-bellied heron. Although RSPN has initiated study on its ecology and breeding behavior, the rapid pace of development activities calls for immediate interventions that could provide quicker options for the survival of the bird. Captive breeding could be an immediate option to balance conservation and development by ensuring survival of the species and continuation of developmental activities – the “Middle Path” national development approach.

  • Kamechu
  • Ada
  • Burichhu
  • Wakleytar
  • Sunkosh
  • Phochhu and Mochu rivers
  • Berti, Zhemgang
  • Phibsoo, Sarpang

Issues to be Addressed

Today hydro power poses the greatest threat to the conservation of the WBH. Roads and infrastructure facilities are concentrated along the river, increasing human settlements and related economic activities are already looming threats to the habitat of this endangered bird.

The little information collected so far indicates that the WBH requires clean water for fishing and a good undisturbed habitat. Any disturbance in the ecosystem leading to pollution of water and high turbidity disables the species from fishing. As a result it requires a large territory in which it can migrate. Ada lake is one of the options that the species relies on for feeding, especially during the monsoon when the river becomes turbid. Two hours on the way to Ada is the village of Zawa, the only nesting place discovered so far.

Project Goal and Objectives

The overall goal of the project is to maintain the significance of Punatsangchu as the habitat of the critically endangered White-bellied Heron as a contribution to the global conservation of the species.

The objective of WBH Conservation project is to develop an appropriate management framework and foundation of biological and socio-economic knowledge for the conservation of the white bellied heron population.

Partners

  • National Environment commission
  • Department of Forest and Park services
  • Department of Live stock
  • Respective Communities
  • Punatsangchu Hydropower projects.

Current Activities

  • Ecological Study of white-bellied heron
  • Awareness campaign among the Hydropower project workers, communities, policy makers, technocrats and general public.

Immediate Plans

  • Captive breeding of WBH (If the project succeeds Bhutan will be in the forefront for achieving a balanced conservation and development true to the “Middle Path” national development approach).