The Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) established the White-bellied Grouse Conservation Center in Tsirang last year as part of an effort to protect endangered bird species critical in today’s world.
The center, after its creation, was on a quest to house some of the bird species in critical danger of extinction.
The search was successful. The center raised three White-bellied Herons (WBH) from Rilangthang, a commonly used WBH nest site since 2018.
Today, the two herons at the center are growing up healthy, according to RSPN’s head of species and habitat conservation, Indra Prasad Acharja.
The youngest chick did not survive. RSPN after an autopsy found that the cervical vertebrae were fractured in the neck and there were some fractures in the fibula region of the right leg and internal bleeding.
Currently, Bhutan has 23 WHBs and globally, the population of the birds is less than 60.
To discuss and share ideas on various conservation practices, technologies, developments and businesses that would pave the way for robust and coordinated efforts among key stakeholders to save WBH, a two-day meeting was held on the 28th and 29th of December in Punakha.
The meeting saw local experts share their learnings on conservation and community livelihoods, fish population, Bhutan’s river systems, high-end recreational fishing and rafting, and biodiversity, among d others
The purpose of the meeting was to explore new conservation ideas, technologies and funding mechanisms to conserve the WHB and to foster cooperation, partnership and coordination at the national level to address the conservation challenges of the WBH.
During the meeting, Indra Prasad Acharja said that recreating and restoring wild habitats, protecting wild populations and breeding grounds, addressing threats and improving breeding success and survival will restore and protect the WHB population.
“If wild habitats are not significantly restored, there is no individual release [from the conservation centre] will survive,” he said.
He added that if conservation activities are not carried out, the bird would become extinct from 2052 to 2060. “If we can increase the juvenile survival rate, it would have an impact on the population. The probability of extinction will drop by 2 to 3 percent.”
RSPN has been involved in WBH conservation projects since 2003.
Indra Prasad Acharja said RSPN, moving forward, will continue to conserve wild herons and their habitats, secure the population and carry out conservation breeding.
He said there is progress in terms of awareness, stakeholder engagement and information about WBH. “But we are still not successful in bringing the WBH population back.”
The center, Indra Prasad Acharja said, will continue to collect birds called the founder population from other nests for breeding or to see the feasibility of carrying out artificial incubation.
Currently, there are three WBHs in the center. A juvenile was rescued this year from the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary where the bird was injured while feeding in a private fishery.