Mekong Delta province to spend $3.25M restoring endangered cranes

By Ngoc Tai   June 12, 2023 | 02:06 am PT
Mekong Delta province to spend $3.25M restoring endangered cranes
Red-crowned cranes at Tram Chim National Park in Dong Thap Province in southern Vietnam. Photo by Nguyen Van Hung
Dong Thap Province in the Mekong Delta has announced a VND76 billion (US$3.25 million) project to raise red-crowned cranes in combination with tourism and agricultural development.

Of the fund, VND49 billion will be used to raise cranes imported from Thailand, before releasing them into Tram Chim National Park.

The remaining funds will be used for creating habitats for the cranes, including growing rice, and developing eco-tourism services, the province vice chairman Nguyen Phuoc Thien said last weekend.

Vietnam and Thailand in April signed an agreement on breeding and transferring cranes from Thailand’s Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo for release in Dong Thap Province, as well as training staff and developing captive-rearing facilities and a monitoring system.

The province is aiming to release 150 cranes into Tram Chim Park in the next decade, and keep at least 100 alive until they can form their own flocks.

Spreading over 7,500 hectares, Tram Chim is recognized under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance, the fourth in Vietnam, and 2,000th in the world.

The park is famous as a natural habitat for the large East Asian red-crowned crane, among the rarest in the world and classified as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The birds usually arrive from Cambodia in December and stay until May, when it is the dry season in southern Vietnam.

They come to forage and mate prior to the onset of rains and floods.

Until 1980 thousands came every winter, but in recent years that story has changed with only a couple of dozen visiting the park at most each year.

This year, none arrived, as in 2022. In 2021, only three showed up.

Nguyen Hoai Bao, deputy director of the Center of Wetland Studies at HCMC University of Science and a volunteer at the International Crane Foundation (ICF), told VnExpress that in the delta, the conversion of natural wetland areas into lands for rice cultivation and aquaculture and the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides had destroyed the ecological balance, giving red-crowned cranes almost no chance to live.

Conversation areas tend to store water to prevent forest fires, which has reduced biodiversity and kept away the cranes, he added.

According to the ICF, there are around 15,000-20,000 red-crowned cranes worldwide, with 8,000-10,000 in India, Nepal and Pakistan and the rest in Indochina.

In Vietnam and Cambodia, their numbers have fallen from 850 in 2014 to 179 in 2020.

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