Itanagar: A rare and elusive white-bellied heron has been spotted at Walong in Arunachal Pradesh’s Anjaw district, around 557 km from here.

The bird was spotted and photographed by Anjaw divisional forest officer Santosh Kumar Reddy, range forest officer Nosing Pul and scientist Dekbin Yonggam earlier this month.

The white-bellied heron is categorized as ‘critically endangered’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Book and is listed as Schedule IV in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

It is one of the rarest birds in the world and is at present found only in Bhutan, Myanmar and the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.

It had also been recorded in the adjacent Kamlang Tiger Reserve in Lohit district in the camera trap images.

The recent sighting of the white-bellied heron in Walong at a height of 1,200 meters above sea level is the first at a higher elevation area in India, forest officials said.

The presence of nesting sites within this area is a positive sign for the future habitat as the breeding season of the white-bellied heron starts from February and lasts till June.

Arunachal’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests R K Singh said it is great news that the critically endangered bird is establishing new habitats beyond its traditional range.

“This itself epitomizes the positive health of the forest ecosystem in this biodiversity-rich state,” he said.

The rare and elusive white-bellied heron was spotted at Walong

Chief Wildlife Warden, G Kumar said, “It is a good sign for the rare bird to appear in the pristine forest areas of Arunachal.”

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Kumar said a team comprising of scientists from the state’s forest department, along with those from reputed national institutions like Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata, would soon carry out a joint field research to find out ways to conserve the future prospects of the rare and globally threatened bird.

He also applauded the conservation measures taken by the Anjaw DFO.

Since the bird is extremely shy to human presence, the gaon buras and village heads of Walong have been requested to make local communities aware of the importance to protect the bird and conserve its habitat, he said.

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