After discovering the plight of the world’s second largest heron and one of the most threatened birds globally, I felt a need to do something to help kick-start collaboration between the range states and to increase action and interest in the species.
I identified some of the most dedicated White-bellied heron conservationists and researchers but as I got to understand their work it became clear that they needed to scale up their efforts in order to save the species.
After many conversations and exhausting all available documentation, it became apparent that enabling the actors within its range-states to meet, share knowledge and identify information-gaps and discuss future plans would be the best starting point for the White-bellied Heron.
Alongside Mark Stanley Price, the Chair of the IUCN SSC Species Conservation Planning Sub-Committee, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology, the Environment and Bombay Natural History Society and BirdLife, I organised a Species Conservation Planning Workshop in India at the end of 2014.
Over 40 participants attended from NGOs, academic institutions and government agencies from across the bird’s range states – Myanmar, India, Bhutan and China. All participants committed to increasing research and knowledge on the species biology, ecology and population; to maintain and improve healthy heron habitat and reduce threats to the species; and to empower communities and inspire governments to protect the species. As well as identifying a representative for each range country who can lead the work, it was decided that a White-bellied heron Working Group should be established within the Species Conservation Committee’s (SSC) IUCN Heron Specialist Group to spur action.
With the support of James Kushlan, Chair of the Heron Specialist Group, and Simon Stuart, Chair of the SSC, it has been agreed that I will work as the interim coordinator of the Working Group, working closely with range state coordinators and all members of the working group.
The Working Group will act as a coordinating body to ensure ongoing commitment and effective collaboration between organisations working on WBH conservation, and to provide a mechanism for funding and knowledge sharing.