Bengal Florican- Living on the Edge


Living On The Edge- An
initiative by Tiger Protection Group to make you aware of the CRITICALLY
ENDANGERED species of the world that are walking on the brinks of
extinction today.

This week we bring you the Bengal Florican.

A highly threatened and rare bird, the Bengal Florican or
Bengal Bustard is the size of a large duck. It is the only member of the genus Houbaropsis. Males have predominantly white wings, that are
conspicuous when tucked against their black bodies or when in flight. Elongated
black feathers on the head, neck and back, which are fluffed during the male's elaborate
aerial displays, gives the bird a somewhat mop-like appearance. The plumage of
female Bengal Floricans does not form such a stark contrast as that of the
male; they have more buff-brown plumage, and a patch of white on the wing is
seen only in flight. Females are also larger than males.

Two subspecies of the
Bengal Florican are recognised; Houbaropsis bengalensis blandini is
typically larger than Houbaropsis bengalensis bengalensis.

There are two distinct populations of the Bengal Florican.
The subspecies Houbaropsis bengalensis bengalensis occurs in the
Indian subcontinent, ranging along the border of Nepal with India and into
lowland north-eastern India. Houbaropsis bengalensis blandini, however,
occurs in Southeast Asia, in southern Cambodia and southern Vietnam. Over
two-thirds of the global population of Bengal Floricans breed on the seasonally
flooded grasslands of the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. 

The Bengal Florican population in Cambodia was estimated at
294 with just 32-60 individuals left in Nepal in 2007. No recent estimates are
known from India but the total global population for this species is likely to
fall in the range 250-999 mature individuals only. The key threats to the species
are the extensive loss and modification of grasslands through drainage,
conversion to agriculture and plantations, overgrazing, inappropriate cutting,
burning and ploughing regimes, heavy flooding, invasion of alien species, scrub
expansion, dam construction, inappropriate and illegal development and

The Bengal Florican has been listed in the CITES Appendix I
and II and is given a status of Critically Endangered by IUCN. Several
populations occur within few protected areas, the most important being the
Bengal Florican Conservation Area (BFCA) network in Cambodia, Chitwan National
Park, Royal Bardia National Park and Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, Nepal and Kaziranga,
Dibru-Saikhowa and Dudwa National Parks, India. A Ph.D. research project
investigating movements and habitat requirements in the non-breeding season
began in 2007, the data from which have revealed previously unknown non-breeding

The Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International
and their government partners are engaged in a programme of conservation
activities in the Tonle Sap floodplain of Cambodia, aimed at reducing habitat
loss and hunting pressure on the species. An in-depth socio-economic study has
also been conducted by the Centre d'Etude et de Développement Agricole
Cambodgien. The report highlights the economic benefits local communities
derive through the traditional use of grasslands and is used to build support
among key decision makers and local communities. An awareness programme
covering 71 villages and over 3,200 people was conducted in 2008-09 and school
and village outreach is ongoing.

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