Sightings Of White Bellied Herons Declining In Bhutan

Email

The White Bellied Herons are secretive birds, often intolerant of close proximity to humans.

'White Bellied Heron' stamp from Bhutan. (Source: Phila-art)

 

By Nima | Kuensel

Conservationists and bird watchers are concerned about the increasing disturbances of the White Bellied Heron’s (WBH) prime habitat and feeding site at Phochhu River in Punakha.

The site was declared as an Important Bird Area in 2014 while the WBH is a critically endangered bird species.

Source: Species on the brink

 

Bhutan is home to about half of the world’s white bellied herons. Twenty-four individuals and five juveniles out of less than 60 white bellied herons in the world are found in the country today, according to the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN).

Locations of the White Bellied Heron’s habitats in Bhutan

Based on the multiple surveys conducted by the RSPN between 2003 and 2010, the river systems harbouring potential WBH habitats are: Phochhu, Mochhu, Punatshangchhu, Sunkosh, Dagachhu and its tributaries in the west, Mangdechhu and Bertichhu.

The bird was also recently sighted at Kurichhu. However, researchers from the RSPN, birdwatchers and rafting operators revealed that the population of WBH at Phochhu and Mochhu has declined over the years.

A regular bird watcher, Hishey Tshering from Thimphu, said that in 2001 he saw five WBHs along the Mochhu.

 

Source: The Mileage.org

 

“Now it is very rare to see even a single WHB along the Mochhu. In 2016, there were three along the Phochhu. Today, we can see only one and that is also being continually disturbed,” he said.

According to the population count of WBH during nesting and non-nesting seasons between 2003 and 2010, two birds were spotted at the Tshekathang Pochhu and one at the Phochhu-Mochhu confluence.

Chief of Communications and membership division with the RSPN, Tashi Phuntsho said that WBHs are secretive birds, often intolerant of close proximity to humans.

Threats faced by the White Bellied Herons

“Disturbance from humans and loss of habitat undoubtedly attributed to their extirpation over much of their former range. Threats to these birds are further intensified by the growing tourism activities like rafting and kayaking along the important habitats,” he said.

“There are more than three rafting companies operating along the Phochhu and Mochhu rivers in Punakha.”

Source: Kuensel

 

This situation of the birds being frequently disturbed by tourists and rafting activities caught the attention of a group of bird watchers in the country.

Tshering Tobgay, a bird watcher wrote in the social media platform called ‘Birds of Bhutan’. He lamented that it was the threats driven by anthropogenic causes.

“We are getting late and it will be too late to wait for a few more years. There is a need for our support to bring back WBH to Punakha to a stable number.”

One of the rafting operators in Punakha said that river rafting at Phochhu was done only upon request from visitors.

“It is unfair to hold rafting activities, which is our livelihood, for a single bird. Moreover, I have not seen the bird in the last four years.”

Kencho from ‘Explore Bhutan’ said that his clients, after seeing the signage installed at WBH’s habitat, did not stop for photography and other activities so as not to disturb the birds.

He also said that there have been no awareness courses related to the bird’s conservation conducted with the rafting operators yet.

Constructive steps taken to lessen adverse impact on the habitats of the White Bellied Heron

RSPN monitors the daily behaviour of the bird by collaborating with the community through the Local Conservation Support Group.

Source: BBS

 

The initiative also helped reduce the harvest of timber, collection of firewood, fishing and picnicking at the bird’s feeding and roosting areas.

The Executive Director of the RSPN, Kinley Tenzin (PhD) said that the WBH were ‘ambassadors’ of a healthy ecosystem of rivers.

“The extremely low population of the WBH along its habitat area is an indication that the ecosystem of the river and its surrounding is very unhealthy,” he said.

“If WBH goes extinct, it is an indication that the river and its surrounding ecosystem are also on the verge of collapsing. Therefore, conservation is not only about saving any particular species but eventually it is all about saving ourselves.”

An ecologist and researcher with RSPN, Rebecca Pradhan said that the population of WBH at Phochhu could not have declined but instead, the birds migrated to a better habitat where there is a minimum disturbance.  

“There is a need for collaboration among all the stakeholders because the conservation of the birds will benefit all in the long run,” she added.

 

This article first appeared in kuensel and has been edited for the Daily Bhutan.

 


Related Posts

Phobjikha Valley Sees Increasing Number Of Black-Necked Cranes –...

Since October, close to 270 black-necked cranes have already arrived in the Phobjikha Valley.

Nov 28, 2018 20:23

Man-made Pond Invites Black-Necked Cranes

Developed by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) last September, the pond ensures the safety of the winged...

Jan 10, 2018 16:52

Discover The Wonders Of The Black-Necked Crane Festival – A Day...

This unique festival will leave a lasting impression on you. With more than a hundred villagers participating, see the...

Nov 09, 2018 21:39

Craft Gallery To Hold Art Exhibition On Endemic Birds Of Bhutan

The paintings were gifted to the Gyalyum Charitable Trust by Thai artist Waraporn Khanthasiri.

Jul 20, 2018 16:32

Birds Of Bhutan

Bhutan is considered one of the top birding spots in the world.

Jun 09, 2018 08:32

The Black-Necked Crane Festival

The arrival of the black-neck cranes signals the coming of winter and plays an integral role in the daily lives of the...

Nov 01, 2017 13:54

Latest

News

WFP Shifts Focus To Capacity Development In Nutrition And Disaster Preparedness In Bhutan

The decision was made after consultations with Bhutan's government, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Apr 19, 2019 13:02

We Are Landlocked But Our Minds Are Open: Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering Of Bhutan

"Trade between the two countries is still small compared to the potential it can bring."

Apr 13, 2019 22:02

Features

How Bhutan Has Changed Me: Julie Chapman

Julie Chapman, who is from the California, speaks about how life was like for her while living in Bhutan.

Apr 18, 2019 10:20

We Are Here To Serve The Interests Of The People: Journalists' Association Of Bhutan's Namgay Zam

The newly appointed Executive Director of the Journalists’ Association of Bhutan (JAB), Namgay Zam talks about the challenges faced by the...

Apr 17, 2019 14:00

Sports

Bhutan To Hold First 'Sports And Culture Festival' For Runners And Cyclists

There are two tiers to the event, comprising of a full-race distance of 50km and a half-race of 25km.

Mar 06, 2019 17:14

Bhutan’s HRH Princess Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck Attended The General Assembly of the Asian Paralympic Committee In Dubai

The General Assembly is the highest decision making body of the Asian Paralympic Movement.

Feb 08, 2019 18:15

Business

Celebrating Bhutan's Entrepreneurs: Kinley Dema Of BuBu Bakery, Lobesa

This story is part of an exclusive feature by Yeewong Magazine in Dec 2018 on celebrating entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

Apr 20, 2019 19:18

Celebrating Bhutan's Entrepreneurs: Sonam Choden of Rolling Pin Bakery in Thimphu

This story is part of an exclusive feature by Yeewong Magazine in Dec 2018 on celebrating entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

Apr 11, 2019 11:08

Travel

Can Bhutan Take Its Happiness Brand To The Next Level?

Two key challenges: galvanising citizens as brand ambassadors and applying brand recognition to growth sectors.

Apr 21, 2019 10:40

The Magical Waters Of Gasa Tsachu – A Popular Hot Spring In Bhutan

While most people visit the hot spring in the hope that it could cure them of various ailments, it has become an annual visit for many to...

Mar 25, 2019 14:38

Lifestyle

Food Review: Cloud9 Cafe & Bar

Cloud9 has always been known in Thimphu for dishing out handcrafted gourmet burgers.

Mar 09, 2019 09:44

Tshering Zangmo Represents Bhutan At The 5th Young Chef Olympiad In India

Tshering Zangmo has successfully made it to round two of the Olympiad.

Feb 04, 2019 16:35

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!