The IUCN-SCC Heron Specialist Group

White-bellied Heron Working Group

About the White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis):

White-bellied Heron Working GroupThe White-bellied Heron is the world’s most endangered heron. It is classified as Critically Endangered due to its small and rapidly declining population, and is regarded as one of the world’s most threatened bird species – listed amongst the top 100 most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species.

The White-bellied Heron is known to occur in just three of its former range states – India, Bhutan and Myanmar. It is extinct in Nepal, and is believed to be regionally extinct in Bangladesh. A recent captive specimen identified in Yunnan province, China, suggests – however – that the species could still exist there.

Numbers are worryingly low in all its remaining range states and it is not known if these populations are viable in isolation. Numbers are likely to decline further as more habitats are lost and degraded as a result of increased human activity, including large-scale infrastructure development. Current published estimates suggest there are just 50-249 mature birds left in the wild. However, a full and thorough population census is lacking, as is research about the bird’s ecology and biology – both of which must be better understood to preserve the species effectively.

About the Working Group:

The Working Group’s function is to act as a coordinating body to ensure an active and strategic approach to the conservation of the White-bellied Heron. The Working Group brings together dedicated individuals from research institutions, non-governmental and governmental organizations. It comprises people from all White-bellied Heron range states, as well as those offering additional required expertise and support.

The Working Group’s mission is to increase and coordinate efforts to protect the species, elevate its profile, enable and mobilize more research and funding, and, ultimately ensure a viable population in the wild for the long-term survival of the species.

Why the Working Group was created:

Before the Working Group was created, the future for White-bellied Heron looked increasingly bleak. Individuals working to protect the species in the field were feeling isolated; those researching the species were finding it hard to share their findings; funding was hard to come by and large gaps in essential information on the species biology, ecology and behavior meant insurmountable challenges for in-situ and ex-situ conservation action. Bringing together the world’s most knowledgeable and relevant White-bellied Heron scientists, conservationists and government representatives at a workshop in December 2014 to share information, better understand how we can collaborate effectively and to start the process of drawing up an implementable species conservation strategy, was the first step of many. Out of the workshop, we collectively identified the need to establish a working group, with a designated coordinator, to ensure these plans are finalized and followed through.


White-bellied Heron Workshop Report
More documents will follow, including the Species Conservation Strategy.


A conservation-planning workshop was convened in Assam, India in December 2014. (see the resulting report: White-bellied Heron)
The Working Group was established with permissions from the IUCN SSC Chair and the IUCN SSC Heron Specialist Group Chair in January 2015.
A further workshop is planned for late 2015.
A full species conservation strategy is being written, the species status review is being updated and more comprehensive maps, demonstrating current known and historical data, are being created – all will be available later in 2015.
A dedicated White-bellied Heron working group website is now available.


Gemma Goodman-Hattie, White-bellied Heron Working Group Coordinator
Aya Sakamoto, White-bellied Heron Working Group Coordinator (Maternity Cover)
Synchronicity Earth
27-29 Cursitor Street, London, EC4A 1LT
Office Line: +44 20 7581 0100
Range-state Facilitators and key contact points can be contacted via Aya.

Visit the White-bellied Heron Working Group website
Follow the group on Twitter: @WBHeron