Chhimi Dema 

The Black-necked Cranes (BNC) have arrived in Phobjikha and Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. These are the winter homes for the graceful birds which migrate from across the mighty Himalayas.

Locals believe that migratory birds bring blessings and good fortunes with them.

The number of BNC is increasing in the country with increased protective mechanisms, conservation intervention, improved population monitoring, and counting protocols.

However, the conservation efforts of the bird species at home are not enough, according to experts. Global and regional collaboration is necessary to conserve the bird, experts say.

To build a BNC network and exchange knowledge on crane conservation, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature organised the International Black-necked Crane Conservation Network meeting in Thimphu yesterday.

The experts will make presentations on the status of BNC conservation and development in their countries and share their challenges and opportunities.

National co-ordinator for BNC conservation, Jigme Tshering, said that the meeting brings together experts from the BNC-range countries and other international partners to discuss issues and challenges for BNC conservation and find actions to mitigate those issues.

He said, “This meeting brings together countries to celebrate the conservation efforts put in place by our leaders that have led to an increasing number of BNC and helped the conservation status of BNC to drop from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘near threatened’ in IUCN Red List.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.

There are 15 crane species living on five continents in the world today. Some of the cranes are vulnerable, and critically endangered species.

BNC spreads in different areas of Bhutan, India, and China.

All crane species depend on wetlands to breed and raise their juveniles. However, recent research shows that land use change and the loss of wetland habitats are the main threats the species continue to face.

International Crane Foundation’s co-founder, George Archibald, said that the meeting of Bhutan, India, and China is significant because these countries share an endangered species, the Black-necked Cranes.

He said that the meeting is important for the future of BNC. “We hope that from this meeting the message can come to the foreign departments of the three countries and that a document can be developed by the three countries allowing us to work with and facilitate on BNC [conservation].”

The meeting will also propose BNC as a flagship species for co-operation for the Central Asian Flyway.

Jigme Tshering said that BNC found in three countries holds a cultural association making it an important species among other birds taking the Central Asian Flyway route.

Many bird species migrate along similar well-established routes called flyways between breeding and non-breeding sites.

BNC follows the Central Asian Flyway which is the shortest flyway in the world covering area of Eurasia between the Artic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.

Research has identified eight flyways: the East Atlantic, the Mediterranean or the Black Sea, East Asia or East Africa, Central Asia, and East Asia or Australasia, and three flyways in the Americas and the Neotropics. The meeting today will work on drafting a BNC conservation cooperation framework for range countries.