ITANAGAR: Described by environmentalists as a symbol of the "cultural identity of the Himalayan ecosystem", the black-necked crane is facing a grim battle for survival now prompting experts in India and Bhutan to call for regional cooperation for the conservation of the species.
In order to discuss the current status and conservation measures related to the black-necked crane, a two-day Indo- Bhutan workshop on the species was organised from February 9 at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh's West Kameng district which, incidentally, is also one of the wintering sites of the bird.
The workshop was organised by WWF-India in collaboration with the state's forest department and was attended by experts from India and Bhutan and community conservationists from Zemithang and Sangti valleys of Arunachal Pradesh.
The experts recommended joint conservation of the species by India and Bhutan at the landscape level, site-specific conservation measures to be taken by the respective national government under the regional black-neck crane conservation framework and regional-level policy and advocacy for the protection of the species.
There were also calls for strong community-based conservation in black-necked crane habitats and regular monitoring with the experts saying that the species should be promoted as a cultural symbol of the Himalayan region.
The experts deliberated on a range of issues, including the current status of the species at all the key crane habitats in India and Bhutan.
Presentations were made on the current status and conservation issues related to the black-necked crane in Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. The experts from Bhutan talked about a range of issues related to the conservation of the species in their country.
"There is a need to enhance the understanding of the impact of anthropogenic pressures and climate change on black- necked crane habitats and populations in the Indo-Bhutan region," observed Tshering Phuntsho from the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) of Bhutan.
Said workshop coordinator Pankaj Chandan, who is the head of the Western Himalayan Landscape of WWF-India, "This initiative is to protect and promote the black-necked crane as a symbol of the cultural identity of the Himalayan mountain ecosystems."
In the concluding session of the workshop, delegates from Bhutan and India jointly agreed that the country-specific conservation measures should be synergised so as to protect black-necked crane habitat as part of a trans-boundary conservation initiative.
S A Hussain, senior scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India, made a presentation on the migration studies on this species in India with Dr Sherub from Bhutan making a presentation on the corresponding studies in his country, a release said.
Kamal Medhi, coordinator of the Western Arunachal Landscape, made a presentation on the current status of black- necked crane in Arunachal Pradesh and informed the experts about WWF conservation actions on the species in the state.
The delegates at the workshop also visited Sangti Valley -- a key habitat of black-necked crane in the state -- and interacted with the local community and school students.
The workshop concluded with a range of recommendations and called for immediate conservation actions to protect the wintering habitat of the species in the Sangti and Zemithang valleys of the state.
The black-necked crane breeds in the high-altitude wetlands of the Tibetan Plateau (China), Eastern Ladakh in J-K and Gurudongmar Lake in Sikkim.
The species winters in the lower altitudes in the Tibetan Plateau, Yunan and Guizhou (China) and in Phobjika and Bumdeling (Bhutan).
The black-necked crane has strong cultural, spiritual and religious links to the local people in the region in Arunachal Pradesh.
A small proportion of the critically important sites have been designated under the Ramsar List of Internationally Important Wetlands and East Asian - Australasian Flyway Site Network.
The total global population of the species is estimated to be about 11,000 and it is listed as a globally 'Vulnerable' species by IUCN.
The wetland habitats used by the black-necked crane are ecologically unique and extremely fragile. The conservation of such wetlands is essential as they are also very important hydrologically.