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Project overview/Rationale

WBH (White-bellied Heron) has been categorized as critically endangered in IUCN species red list. It is among the 50 rarest bird species in the world and is almost in the brink of extinction (IUCN, 2018). The international WBH meeting held in Bhutan in December 2015, confirmed less than 60 individuals spread thinly across the range countries of India, Myanmar, Bhutan and China with Bhutan hosting the highest number. Besides its population status in these range countries, very little is known about the bird. Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) has been involved in WBH conservation for the last 15 years (2003-2018) and that has given some understanding of its distribution, its habitat, and specific feeding behavior. Limited understanding of its population dynamics, reproductive character and the basis for its small population size needs further and deeper study (RSPN, 2011). Much remains to be known about the aspects of specie’s complete ecology and their reproductive behavior to better understand and answer many questions associated to the bird. Thus, the project intends to address the unknown ecological parameters of the in-situ WBH conservation that will help to carry out a successful ex-situ conservation program. The in-situ conservation of WBH is important for protecting WBH genetic resources required to support the ex-situ conservation program

The current WBH habitats are disturbed with anthropogenic activities, infrastructure development and natural calamities. Situation like this has led to displacement of the bird with forced adaptation at the lower and safer places. In the face of such challenges, captive breeding (ex-situ conservation) is seen as an important measure to save the bird from extinction. The ex-situ conservation is one of the methods that RSPN has prioritized for the next 15 years to enhance the WBH population, based on its successful captive rearing in 2011.This also came as a recommendation by WBH International Advisory Committee members. The construction of WBH captive breeding facility center (CBC) is currently underway with support from Puna-tsangchhu Hydro-electric Power Authority and the Mava Foundation on 18.244 acre of land supported by the Royal Government of Bhutan. Nested on an elevation of 375 masl with its geographical 27°2´1.71´´N and 90°4´34.01´´E, it also falls within the active WBH habitat (2018). The idea of CBC was conceived based on RSPN’s several years of experience in WBH conservation that helped determine the importance and need for captive breeding. The captive breeding facility center will render necessary facilities to maintain the reliable ex-situ gene pool and also deepen the understanding of WBH through various research and monitoring. The WBH captive breeding program will be RSPN’s important focus area for WBH conservation in the next ten years.

This project’s input will therefore play a critical role in complementing the aforementioned effort to conserve and protect an ex-situ gene pool of WBH. The project in general will take a balanced approach that considers benefit sharing, engages community and various other stakeholders; thereby not undermining the socio-economic need of the community while addressing WBH threats.


To increase and maintain ecologically viable population of WBH through in-situ and ex-situ conservation measures

Expected outcomes

  1.       Monitoring and survey of in-situ WBH and its habitats strengthened
  2.       Data and information on the movement of WBH available.
  3.       WBH conservation support base, outreach and collaboration strengthened
  4.       Selective threats to WBH minimized by implementing mitigation measures.
  5.       New, suitable habitats for WBH identified

     6.      Knowledge on WBH ecology documented through research


Project implementing partners


communities of the WBH habitats


Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC), Bhutan has consistently supported the implementation of WBH conservation program and has provided US$ 300,000 for the year 2019-2021. 

However, to sustain and consistently carry both ex-situ and in-situ conservation work for WBH for the next 20 years, RSPN requires an estimated amount of US$ 150,000 annually.

This can only be made possible with a White-bellied Heron endowment fund of US$ 3 million at 5% annual investment interest. So far, MAVA foundation in Geneva generously provided a grant of US$ 1.5 million to support WBH conservation in Bhutan. An additional USD 0.15 million was raised with the support of Philanthropist and other donors. RSPN still requires to raise USD 1.35 million to achieve the target.

At RSPN, we believe a single grain of sand can tip the scale. You can be the grain that tips the scale towards improved environmental conditions and conservation efforts in Bhutan. RSPN has set a target to raise US$ 1.5 million for next 10 years.