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donn_debbDonald J. Sterner and Debra Keiko Marlow of the San Diego Zoo Safari ParkJuly 7, 2011 – For more than 30 years, Donald J. Sterner and Debra Keiko Marlow of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have worked around the world to help save endangered birds. With an estimated global population of only about 200, the critically endangered White-bellied Herons need a lot of help to survive.

In April 2011, Don and Debbie arrived to Bhutan to help RSPN with the world’s first captive rearing of a White-bellied Heron.  All of the known White-bellied Heron eggs and chicks in Bhutan were lost last year because of predators and natural disasters, one of the reasons that RSPN decided to undertake the captive-rearing project.

The White-bellied Heron nests are very high off the ground at the end of narrow branches, making the first step in the captive rearing project — lifting the egg from the nest — a very difficult one. With teamwork and the skillful climbing of a local helper, an egg was successfully taken from the nest. With around-the-clock observation to make sure the egg was kept at the exact necessary temperature, the first-ever captive born White-bellied Heron chick hatched on 7 May 2011.

wbh_egg_liftingPreparing to lift egg from White-bellied Heron’s nest

Don said that watching the chick hatch, grow and thrive were the highlights of his time here. “Working with RSPN was a great experience. Working with such dedicated people who were eager to learn and try to save this bird made the experience that much more worthwhile.”

YOU Can Help Save the White-bellied Heron

Don, Debbie, and RSPN encourage you to help save the White-bellied Heron. With your efforts, we can help this critically endangered species recover. Here is what you can to do help:

  • Support research on the bird in whatever way you can.
  • Educate yourself, your family and your friends about the bird.
  • Help keep the rivers where the birds live litter-free.
  • Do not disturb the areas where the White-bellied Heron live – try to minimize your activities along the Phochu and Mochu.
  • Big trees are prime nesting sites, so please leave these gentle giants standing.

Reported by: Rachel Sayre, Intern, RSPN