Conserving the critically endangered Bengal Florican – a Terai flagship species

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Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensisis a habitat specialised bustard, dependent upon alluvial grassland habitat of terai region. It is restricted to two small and disjunct populations, one in the Terai region of India and Nepal, and the other in Cambodia. In Nepal it is restricted only in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Bardia National Park, Chitwan National Park and Suklphanta Wildlife Reserve.

The total global population for this species is likely to fall in the range 250-999 mature individuals. This equates to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals. According to BirdLife International, this bustard has a very small, declining population; a trend that has recently become extremely rapid and is predicted to continue in the near future, largely as a result of the widespread and on-going habitat degradation.Therefore it is listed as critically endangered (CR) in IUCN red list of threatened species. Nationally it is evaluated at critically endangered and protected under DNPWC Act 1973. It is listed in appendix I of CITES.

Reliable information on distribution, population and habitat in Nepal is limited, and the species’ movements and requirements outside the breeding season remains unknown. Therefore urgent action was required to understand the species’ distribution and habitat requirements in Nepal, so that it can be more effectively protected.

The objective of the project is to develop, demonstrate and advocate conservation measures for Bengal Florican and the main problems we aim to tackle are:

  • The lack of knowledge regarding the distribution and habitat requirements of Bengal Florican, particularly outside the breeding season.
  • The indiscriminate loss and unfavourable management of known Bengal Florican habitat.

Key outcomes of the project include:

  1. Understanding the distribution and habitat requirements of Bengal Florican;
  2. Identification of suitable grassland management techniques to promote favourable habitat for Bengal Florican and benefit traditional pastoralists;
  3. Incorporation of the needs of Bengal Florican in appropriate management plans;
  4. Improved capacity of partner organisations to maintain, monitor and build upon project outcomes beyond the life of the Darwin project.

The long term benefits of this work include preventing the extinction of Bengal Florican in Nepal while developing mechanisms to allow sustainable use of Terai grassland habitat. The project will provide a framework for ongoing conservation activities by i) addressing knowledge gaps that currently hinder conservation efforts; ii) identifying and advocating management techniques that benefit Bengal Florican and local pastoralists iii) producing and updating Species Recovery Plans to ensure sustainability of outcomes and community involvement is achieved beyond the life of the project and iv) putting the capacity in place in Nepal to deliver recovery plan outcomes.

Project duration: 2012/13 - 2014/15

Project sites:

  • Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve
  • Bardia National Park
  • Chitwan National Park
  • KoshiTappu Wildlife Reserve

International Partners:

  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB),UK: Project leader
  • University of East Anglia (UEA), UK
  • Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), India

National Partners:

  • Ministry of Forests andSoil Conservation, Nepal
  • Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal
  • Himalayan Nature

Support: This project is financially supported by The Defra, UK Darwin Initiative program.