Environment: Local ecologist, Rebecca Pradhan, was recognised as one of the “Hotspot Heroes” by Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) at the 6th IUCN World Conservation Congress on September 4, according to a press release issued by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN).

Fifteen conservationists from around the world were recognised as Hotspot Heroes during the 15th anniversary of CEPF at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. The Hotspot Heroes were chosen from a pool of more than 2,000 civil society organisations that were recipients of CEPF grants for conservation of biodiversity hotspots across the globe since 2001.

The honour was in recognition of the valuable contribution Rebecca Pradhan made towards conservation of biodiversity hotspots in Bhutan.

Rebecca, 63, is a senior member of RSPN and a pioneer in the field of environment conservation in Bhutan. Fueled by an early interest in nature, she started her conservation career with the government. She served as the head of the Herbarium and Forestry Research Library of Department of Forests and Park Services from 1985 till 1999. It was in 2000 that she joined RSPN, contributing immensely to the growth of the organisation – the oldest environmental CSO in Bhutan.

One of her outstanding works has been in the field of conservation of the critically endangered White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis) in Bhutan. Of the less than 60 confirmed global population of White-bellied Heron, 28 (population survey, 2016) are found in Bhutan. The conservation efforts for this critically endangered species were made possible from grants and donations, and one such grant was received from CEPF for the protection of one of the last remaining habitats along the Phochhu in Punakha. It was a project spearheaded by RSPN with Rebecca Pradhan at the helm.

CEPF is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Japanese government, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. CEPF provides grants to civil society organisations in developing and transitional countries and territories that are in biodiversity hotspots.

RSPN’s initiatives in conservation of the White-bellied Heron in collaboration with Department of Forests and Parks Services,  were supported by Felburn Foundation, WWF Country Office,  Bhutan, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN), Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project Authority (PHPA), Karuna Foundation (Bhutan Foundation), MacArthur Foundation, Small Grant Project, GEF, Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC).

Some of the recent and major breakthroughs in the conservation of the White-bellied Heron in Bhutan will be the construction of a captive breeding centre at Changchey (Tsirang), study through satellite telemetry, new habitat inventories, understanding ecology and its dynamics through scientific studies, and conducting consistent public awareness and advocacy programmes in the country, which will be instituted through the support from several organisations like the Punatsangchhu Hydropower Project Authority, MAVA foundation, Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation, International Crane Foundation, Synchronicity Earth, UK.

Staff reporter