Bengal Florican Conservation in Nepal

Bird Conservation Nepal has identified 27 locations as Important Bird Areas in Nepal, with a further five areas having the potential for being added to this list for special conservation attention. Working with local government (Ministry of Environment, Science & Technology, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Department of Forest) and non-government organizations (IUCN Nepal and WWF Nepal), as well as international conservation foundations, Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) monitors bird populations and carries out various restoration and management activities for their benefit.

One of the projects currently underway in Nepal is the conservation of the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), also known as the Bengal bustard, which is listed by the IUCN as ‘critically endangered’ and is protected under the DNPWC Act of 1973. It is thought that there are fewer than 500 adult birds alive today, some of which are found in the Terai region of Nepal, including the Bardia National Park, Suklphanta Wildlife Reserve, Chitwan National Park and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. Habitat destruction is the primary reason for the decline in numbers of this elegant bird which relies on alluvial grassland habitat for its survival.

Ranging between 66 and 68 cm in length and standing around 55cm tall, the adult male Bengal florican has black plumage from its head and neck to its underparts. When in flight, its wings look completely white apart from its dark flight feathers. It has a crest on its head and long display plumes on its neck. It has yellow feet and legs, with a dark bill. Larger than the male, the female is a buff-brown color with a dark brown crown and dark streaks down the sides of her neck.

In order to create a strategy for protecting the Bengal florican more effectively, the project aims to gather information regarding the distribution and habitat requirements of the species, particularly in non-breeding periods when the population is more scattered. The project also aims to identify and implement grass management techniques which will benefit the birds and allow sustainable use of grasslands by local pastoralists. Assisting local partner organizations in monitoring, maintaining and building on the outcomes of the project is also important for the continued existence of the Bengal florican in Nepal.