International attention has now fallen on White-bellied herons, Gangetic dolphins and river terrapins of the country.
The Save Our Species (SOS), a global coalition initiated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank, will support the conservation of these species.
The three projects have a combined budget of nearly $ 250,000 and will run for two years. The three species are among the 25 selected globally for conservation.
The projects, which will be implemented by NGOs, will focus on groups assessed by the IUCN Red List.
While the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment will implement the White-bellied Heron project, Guwahati-based NGO Aranyak will go ahead with the Gangetic dolphin project in the Brahmaputra.
The Turtle Survival Alliance Foundation will be responsible for the project on river terrapins. The river terrapins selected for the support include the four-toed terrapin and the red-crowned roofed turtle found in the country, said SOS officials.
Conservation efforts of the White-bellied Heron, will focus on three key sites in the reserve forests within the Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam, bordering Bhutan. Protection of sites of occurrence and habitats critical to the species’ survival, establishment of a community-based participatory monitoring, trans-boundary coordination and learning with Bhutan, and awareness and sensitisation programmes for local stakeholders are part of the project.
The creation of a cadre of local heron guardians, facilitation of community sanctioned ‘no go’ areas around the identified nesting sites and development of a monitoring protocol are part of the campaign.
The Brahmaputra supports around 300 of the 2000 Gangetic dolphins found worldwide. Intense human activity has put severe pressure on the species in the river system.
A community-based conservation approach has been planned for the species as majority of the surviving dolphin population is found outside the protected areas in the river system. Conservation is planned in 30 sites.
Establishment of conservation units, regular monitoring of the mammals and their habitats, training fishermen to safely release the dolphins that they catch accidentally are part of the programme.
Providing alternate oil to the fishermen involved in dolphin oil bait fishing and prevention of illegal fishing during the fishing ban season were also part of the efforts, officials said.
The turtle conservation programme covered four critically endangered river terrapins found in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Myanmar.