December 4, 2015, Lobesa: Bhutan today has 28 White-bellied Heron (WBH) individuals thriving in several river basins, revealed latest population census conducted by Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) from 27 February to 3 March 2015. With just over 200 in the world, Bhutan has 14 percent of the world’s total WBH population.
With the first one in 2003, RSPN has been carrying out WBH population census regularly for last 13 years. The census found that atleast 12 WBH juveniles are produced every year. Hence, the number of WBH in the country has, on an average remained constant during the entire survey period.
RSPN counted 14 individuals in their maiden survey in 2003. Since then, the WBH population has seen a steady rise in the Country until 2009. The RSPN recorded the highest of 30 individuals for two continuous years in 2008 and 2009.
However, the number slightly declined for next 4 years of their survey. During the 2013 survey, conducted from 11 to 16 February, RSPN was able to count only 20, which is 10 less than the highest records of 30.
But last year, during the survey conducted from February 24 to 28, RSPN recorded a climb with two more recorded, from the previous year.
The success of WBH conservation in Bhutan is credited to aggressive conservation effort pursued by RSPN in collaboration with Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS). They were able to do that with unstinted support from national and international conservation and financial institutions.
“RSPN and DoFPS has been working on long term conservation of WBH,” stated a press release. Further, the press release stated that preliminary research on WBH habitat ecology, feeding ecology and breeding ecology has been completed.
In addition, assessment of Mitochondrial Genetic Diversity of endangered bird has been completed. RSPN made a breakthrough when they first reared a WBH chick in captivity.
RSPN with support from CNR students is also carrying out various activities which includes community awareness. Currently, RSPN has begun working on “White-bellied Heron Recovery Plan” project and other long term conservation strategies.
Reported by: Ugyen Tshering, ICS in Lobesa
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