Bengal Florican Conservation Project

Supported By:

 The Defra, UK Darwin Initiative program: 2012/13 - 2014/15

 ZSL under its EDGE Fellowship program: 2016-2018.

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 with global population250-999 mature individuals. In Nepal it is restricted only in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Bardia National Park, Chitwan National Park and Suklphanta Wildlife Reserve.

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.

BCN have been working with BirdLife Partners from the UK (RSPB) and India (BNHS) since 2012 to help save this species from the edge of extinction. We have undertaken a programme of research in and around the four protected areas from Suklaphanta to Koshi Tappu trying to address the main issues of:

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

We undertook surveys to assess the distribution of Bengal floricans throughout Nepal and researched the movements of birds between breeding and non-breeding areas using satellite tracking. The successful deployment of a satellite tag on a male at Koshi Tappu on 1st April 2013 was a first for the Indian Subcontinent and the project went on to deploy 11 tags with 3 on birds in Koshi, 1 at Chitwan and 3 at Suklaphanta. Four tags were deployed on birds in Uttar Pradesh India.

First satellite tagging on Bengal Florican at Koshi

The tracking of tagged birds solved the mystery of where the birds go outside of the breeding season. Breeding generally takes place inside PAs but when the grass conditions become sub-optimal the birds move into low-intensity agricultural areas adjacent to rivers up to 50km from their breeding sites.

Once these key breeding and non-breeding areas were identified, the location, extent and utilisation of potentially suitable habitat were modelled. The project developed grassland habitat restoration trials involving local farmers and Government Protected Area staff. These trials and observations of satellite tracked birds helped to develop management techniques to enhance grassland habitat for Bengal florican. BCN used the project results to assist the Government of Nepal to develop a Bengal Florican Conservation Action Plan (BFCAP) 2016-2020. The overall objective of the plan is to “Maintain a healthy and viable population of Bengal Florican through increasing the area of high quality habitat, better understanding of its ecology and reduced threats.” BCN is continuing to support the Government to implement the BFCAP with a focus on:

  • Research on ecology and habitat management
  • Satellite tagging and monitoring
  • Education awareness particularly in non-breeding areas
  • Working with Government PA staff and communities to manage grasslands in breeding and non-breeding areas

BCN are grateful for the support of our project partners: