The 1.27 m tall, white bellied heron is one of the world’s rarest 50 bird species with a global population of 200 birds only. To celebrate Resources Himalaya 25 years of excellence, Ms. Rebecca Pradhan, Bhutan’s foremost ecologist, presented a seminar based on her eight year study of the white bellied heron in Bhutan. A team of researchers led by Ms. Pradhan found out that the herons are habitat specialist as they require undisturbed river tributaries with high density of fish as feeding ground and tall pine trees at 420 – 1,238 m elevation, for roosting.
Bhutan has some 26 birds (WBH) which may not even meet the minimum viability of population. Most of the breeding takes place along the Punatsangchu (river), central Bhutan where over 11 hydropower plants may come into operation in near future. As disturbance widens because of humans and development activities, these herons face a huge threat for their survival. For example, only 3 females were breeding, who laid 7 eggs in the year 2010. Unfortunately, all chicks were lost to predators. The research team plans to initiate artificial incubation of eggs and rearing chicks in captivity to compensate the extreme mortality rates in chicks. The research team’s book entitled 'The Critically Endangered White-bellied Heron’ published by RSPN, is due this year.