Saving the critically endangered White-bellied Heron

Black necked crane rescue and rehab facility at Gangtey Phobji valley ( RSPN )

RSPN establishes the WBH Conservation Center, the first of its kind in the world

SONAM PENJOR

Thimphu

As the year 2021 marked the completion of the 34 years of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature’s (RSPN) existence, the RSPN has been able to establish the White-bellied Heron (WBH) Conservation Center, the first of its kind in the world.

RSPN’s annual report stated that although the Covid-19 pandemic posed significant challenges, 2021 was a successful year for the society which focuses on nature conservation and other philanthropic endeavors.

One of the significant achievements was the commencement of a five-year project ‘Developing Ecosystem-based Solutions for Managing Biodiversity Landscapes in Bhutan’, this is according to the RSPN’s annual report 2021.

The initiative aims to establish approaches and tools for protecting and managing habitats for the WBH.

“The establishment of the WBH Conservation Center in Tsirang Dzongkhag and nurturing Crane Karma and Pema at Gangtey-Phobjikha in an aviary showcases the significant strides made in conservation by RSPN,” the report states.

RSPN said these interventions will add value to the existing efforts of the organization in the conservation of the White-bellied Heron and the Black-necked Crane.

The report further states that RSPN’s species conservation program focuses on the conservation and protection of highly threatened species for which there is only a short window of opportunity to make a difference.

While criticallyeEndangered WBH and near-threatened Black-necked Crane are current targets, it states that RSPN in collaboration with the Department of Forests and Park Services (DoFPS) supports the conservation of charismatic species such as Red Panda, Himalayan Musk Deer, Wild Dog (Dhol), and Asiatic Elephant.

RSPN as a birdlife partner also works at the grassroots level on the conservation of Important Bird Areas, Key Biodiversity Areas, wetlands, riverscapes, and High Conservation Values (HCVs) outside protected area networks in partnership with local communities integrating scientific data with applied habitat and species management practices to conserve, protect or restore key habitats and populations.

The organization also kick-started the implementation of a new ecosystem-based project to strengthen the conservation efforts of the Critically Endangered WBH and enhance community resilience to climate change.

The project is funded by Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), Germany through International Climate Initiative (IKI).

The project aims to develop ecosystem-based solutions for managing biodiversity landscapes, with a special focus on establishing approaches and tools for protecting and managing WBH habitats along Punatsangchhu and Mangdechhu basins in Bhutan.

Further, the project will introduce the Ecosystem and Socio-economic Resilience Analysis and Mapping (ESRAM) approach for biodiversity conservation and management in Bhutan.

ESRAM is an integrated planning tool that focuses on analyzing and mapping resilience linked to the ecosystem and socio-economic systems taking into account existing trends and climate impacts.

In addition, the report also states that the project will document new knowledge and approaches to the management of natural resources, ecosystem services, and climate-resilient livelihood options resulting in improvement of biodiversity management and enhancement of livelihoods of the communities living in WBH areas.

In addition, new knowledge and experiences on the management of natural resources, ecosystem services, eco-tourism, and climate-resilient livelihood options resulting in improving biodiversity management and livelihood enhancement of the communities living in WBH areas will be documented and shared.

The project also focuses on supporting alternative economic and employment opportunities, to strengthen community support for WBH conservation activities, through a community incentive-based and participatory approach to project planning and implementation.

The project would contribute to achieving the long-term goals of climate mitigation and adaptation actions through conservation, sustainable use of biodiversity ensuring co-benefits from sustainable development, and social and environmental safeguards in Bhutan.