White-bellied Heron Conservation Action Plan launched

White-bellied Heron Conservation Action Plan 2022- 2031 Launched

The White-bellied Heron (WBH) Conservation Action Plan was launched today, in the presence of our conservation friends Department of Forests and Park Services Bhutan For Life WWF Bhutan RSPN started the conservation of WBH in 2003 and over the years, together with our partners, we have put in our efforts to the conservation of this species to a great extent. Over the last two decades, we have mapped the distribution range, identified key feeding and nesting habitats, and closely monitored the populations, nests, and juveniles. We have educated, inspired, and engaged local communities, students, researchers, institutions, and policymakers in its conservation. We now have a better understanding of its genetic diversity, ecology, biology, threats, and challenges.

The Conservation Action Plan is an outcome of multi-institutional collaboration and the support of many individuals. This is a national document developed jointly by DoFPS and RSPN. The overall conservation strategies and actions outlined here reflect the holistic approach to achieving the milestone in the conservation of WBH within the period of the next 10 years, 2022-2031. As it becomes effective in 2022, this plan is expected to bring various conservation partners together in putting our foremost efforts to achieve our common goal of saving the last remains of WBH from its brink of extinction. The action plan was developed through funding support from the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation With this action plan in place, we look forward to the effective implementation of the WBH conservation programs with the same spirit of support and collaboration with the partners.

The 19th White-bellied Heron(WBH) annual population survey was conducted from February 27 – March 03, 2021 counted 22 herons in the country. The survey confirmed 22 Herons which is five less than the previous year. Out of 22 Herons, 19 are adults and three sub-adult individuals. The decrease in population was mainly observed in upper Punatsangchhu basin; Phochu, Mochu, Adha and Harachhu which were oldest and previously the most abundantly used habitats in Bhutan. The survey covered all currently known and expected habitats along Punatshangchhu, Mangdechhu, Chamkharchhu, Drangmechhu, Kurichhu, Kholongchhu and major tributaries.Using the Epicollect5 mobile app, a digital data collection platform, all the data were recorded and uploaded to the central WBH database and analyzed.

click here to view report

A stakeholder meeting was held with Toxics Link, an environmental NGO working on the issues of waste and chemicals for over two decades. Toxics Link also serves as the Hub for the South Asia region of IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network) since 2004. The meeting briefly provided the stakeholders about IPEN and discussed possible future engagement of the stakeholders considering the toxics free future

Seminar by Dr. Yuji Okahisa, a Japenese Crested Ibis Reintroduction Program specialist. Dr. Yuji was invited by RSPN to share their 40 years of experience in conservation breeding and recovery of Crested Ibis population from extinction. It is an advanced example of successful conservation breeding and population recovery of critically endangered species in the world today. The population of Japanese Crested Ibis was recovery through captive breeding of the last 7 birds which were introduced from China to more than 400 birds in the wilds today.
Prof. Satoshi Shimano from Hosei University and Dr. Shimpei Hiruta from the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo are also helping RSPN to assess the genetic diversity of the White-bellied Heron and health of critical wetland habitats.
As we prepare to initiate the conservation breeding of the critically endangered White-bellied Heron in Bhutan, we look forward to learn from their experiences and success stories and collaborate to recover the population of the White-bellied Heron.

On August 18, 2019 21 RSPN members trekked the Sagala Trail, a historic 7-hour hike from Haa to Paro. The trekking group traversed through a variety of unique habitats and explored the region’s rich natural biodiversity along the way. In support of RSPN’s Community-based Sustainable Tourism (CBST) program, the members enjoyed Haap’s hospitality with their homestay experiences.

A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), a model academia-industry-civil society collaboration mechanism, was signed on August 9, 2019 at the Institute for Management Studies Ltd., Serbethang to establish cooperation between the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand; Institute for Management Studies Ltd. (IMSL) and the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN).

The MoU paves the way for cooperation between AIT, IMSL and RSPN (AIR) on conducting professional development courses; research and innovation; education, communication, and outreach programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering, sustainable development, and well-being, and Gross National Happiness (GNH).

The three organizations will collaborate in:

  1. Offering professional capacity development and learning programs, 
  2. Research and development of innovative applications of science and technology, development of tools and design of approaches specific to mutually agreed interest areas, and 
  3. Collaborative education, communication, advocacy, and outreach through various media.  

“Many people have asked me about this tripartite collaboration MoU relevancy as we differ in implementing our programs and activities. My answer to them was, whether you come from Science and Technology background, Management or economic background or Environmental conservation background; All of these are connected and interdependent. One cannot survive without the other and therefore, we must all come together, if we are to support or address our common objectives and goals”.
~ Kinley Tenzin (Ph.D)

We, at IMSL, are keen to take the MOU fast-forward, particularly on R&D, faculty exchange program, and of course calling ourselves to action on climate change, sustainable development and our own Gross National Happiness“.

~ Kezang, CEO, IMSL

Brief Profiles of the Partners

The Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) is an international institute of higher learning. It is Asia’s pioneer institution established in 1959 to help meet the region’s growing needs for advanced learning in engineering, science, technology and management, research and capacity building. AIT’s mission is to develop highly qualified and committed professionals who will play a leading role in the sustainable development of the region and its integration into the global economy.

The Institute for Management Studies Ltd. (IMSL), founded in 2008 and incorporated under the Companies Act of Bhutan on 13 July 2016, is a leading knowledge-based socially-conscious company offering: professional training, learning and development programs; strategic research, niche consulting and advisory services; and, authentic hospitality and curated experiences including MICE bleisures. Its corporate campus is located in beautiful Serbethang, on the outskirts of Thimphu city.

25 individuals were recorded during the nationwide WBH population survey, 2019.  The survey engaged 21 Forest Resource Group (FRG), 11 Local Conservation Support Group (LCSG) and 10 staff of RSPN for five continuous days from March 2 till 6, 2019. 30 known and potential habitats of WBH within Punakha, Wangdue, Tsirang, Dagana, Sarpang, Zhemgang, Mongar and Pema Gatshel districts were surveyed. Sadly, a heron was reported dead in Pangna, Dagana, District, opposite to Sunkosh village. The cause of the casualty is still under investigation by the Department of Forests and Park Services and RSPN.

During the survey, six breeding pairs were observed trying to build nests. However, three of the pairs did not succeed in building the nest, which leaves three active nests at Kisonachhu, Wakleytar, and Tshaidang. RSPN, LCSG and FRG are actively monitoring the nests.

PlaceWBH no
kishona chhu4
Casualty 1