In 2011, two White-bellied Heron eggs were taken from the wild to be incubated artificially in Bhutan. RSPN, San Diego Zoo and the International Crane Foundation (funded by Punatsangchu Hydropower Project 1) worked together to hatch the eggs in captivity to trial a head-starting programme.
One egg successfully hatched and fledged at 71-73 days. The bird was released after 134 days in captivity, but has since lost its radio-tracking device.
This attempt helped RSPN and partners to better understand the requirements of a head-starting programme. RSPN developed a proposal for funding the establishment and running of a captive breeding centre and have backing from the Bhutanese government to do so. The government have reserved land for the centre and hydropower companies are contributing to its building costs. It is hoped that building will start as of late 2016. George Achibald of the International Crane Foundation and Cathy King of VogelZoo continue to provide advice on the design and structure of the facility.
RSPN are currently seeking additional funding to implement this programme, which will require training of local staff and continued research on the species, as well running the facility.