White-bellied heron chicks. Photo: Rebecca Pradhan
Synchronicity Earth has organised a workshop bringing together conservationists to protect the Critically Endangered White-bellied heron. Our species portfolio lead, Gemma Goodman, is in Guwahati, India, and last night welcomed participants from across the range states of the world’s second largest, but highly threatened heron:
“I’d like to welcome you all here to the opening of the White-bellied heron conservation-planning workshop.
Thank you to all of you for being here. Many of you have come from far and wide to attend; we have people from at least six countries in attendance. We have non-governmental and governmental representatives, as well as those with expert knowledge and information to offer.
Thank you to our hosts (Atree and BNHS) and sponsors for making this workshop possible. In particular I’d like to thank Sarala Khaling from Atree and Mark Stanley Price who have been instrumental in the planning of this workshop.
This journey started when I was informed of the plight of the White-bellied heron, the second largest heron in the world and one of the world’s most threatened birds. This species is classed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of threatened species; numbers are estimated to be below 250 mature individuals and are still declining. Yet, it is a priority species for several initiatives and organisations, and is included within some of the world’s key areas for biodiversity; areas important for this species, and others, as well as for ecosystem functioning and for people. Yet, it is still at risk!
Many species have already been lost from this and other parts of the world and it is critical we do not see history repeat itself. The power to change this lies in our hands.
Reasons for its decline are thought to be cumulative, a result of multiple pressures, each of the known range states presenting a different set of issues, many little understood. Most recently there are fears that new infrastructure projects (in the form of dams) could result in the final demise of the species in parts of its range. We are here to find out how to ensure this doesn’t happen, by better understanding these threats and identifying what we can do collectively to mitigate them.
Through talking to many of you here today, it became clear that there was a need to strengthen collaboration and sharing of knowledge between those working on the species; to bring in non-conservationists with relevant expertise; to gain international interest and create a more strategic range-wide plan. We are here for the next three days to start this process. We will create a shared vision and a plan to enable us to achieve this vision. I hope this will result in the survival and eventually the recovery of this magnificent bird, so that self-sustaining populations can be observed in the wild for generations to come.
This is an opportunity to be a part of a conservation success story, to be driven by the range states and those present today.”