Participants in the workshop. Telegraph picture
Guwahati, Dec. 10: Wildlife experts have called for enforcing protection to the white-bellied heron, a critically endangered species in the range countries.
This was the observation of experts at the international workshop on chalking out a conservation strategy for the heron, which was held here from December 2-4. Bombay Natural History Society and Ashoka Trust for Research in Environment and Ecology hosted the workshop.
A total of 41 participants from these countries, including governmental and non-government representatives, with additional international expertise deliberated on the challenges in the conservation of the bird.
Although the bird has a vast range across Bhutan, India, Myanmar and possibly China, it occurs only patchily and at very low densities. The world population is estimated to be less than 250 of which around 20 are in India. It is one of the 50 rarest birds in the world.
Experts agreed that there is a need to ensure the heron has the highest level of legal protection in each range country and that this protection is enforced.
Not only this, all sectors of society need to be sensitised to the significance of the white-bellied heron as a flagship species for the conservation of healthy river systems.
They also agreed that a further goal should be to ensure that riverine ecosystems are maintained in good ecological health in the interests of both the heron and many rural communities, which can harmoniously share land and water with the heron.
Presentations by experts from each range country highlighted the need for greater efforts in understanding the basic biology, habits and distribution of the bird through scientific research to provide a solid basis for its conservation.
Improving the understanding of this species was in fact one of the major goals identified by all participants of the workshop.
Participants opined that such conservation efforts would inspire range country governments to take active and urgent measures to conserve this magnificent bird, which can often be done effectively with the involvement of responsible local communities.
The meeting outlined more specific range-state objectives for the next 12 months with the aim of meeting again in the near future to review the progress.
It also agreed to establish a potential formal structure or working group to facilitate collaboration on the conservation of the white-bellied heron among all range countries.