Red-headed crane habitat under threat
Monkey hunting an inhuman jo
Date: 14 March 2011
Monkey hunting an inhuman jo
The regular arrival of the red-headed cranes every dry season has long meant the successful preservation of natural environment in the country. However, in recent years Kien Giang province in the Mekong Delta has found itself on the wrong side of the environmental protection movement.
As farms and construction sites keep on expanding and encroaching upon flooded forests and wetlands, the rare bird, with the scientific name of Sarus Crane (or Grus Antigone Sharpii), has made their visit to Kien Giang less and less frequent, despite the fact that the area has been their favorite roosting place for decades.
Classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the cranes usually migrate from northern Cambodia and the forests of Vietnam’s Central Highlands to the wetlands in the Mekong Delta for food during the dry season from December to May.
The omnivorous bird wanders in paddy fields looking for fallen rice grains. Their presence has long been an assuring sight and a source of pride for local people -- not to mention the inspiration for many memorable prize-winning photographs.
But this season is different. The birds may come to Cambodia’s giant Tonle Sap lake instead of Vietnam.
Surveys by the International Crane Foundation showed that 321 red-headed cranes migrated to Kien Giang in the 2009 dry season. It fell to 134 in 2010 and only 30 of the birds visited the place as of the end of last month.
Local authorities attributed the decline to the birds’ shrinking habitat caused mainly by more and more people invading the sedge fields and turning them into farmlands.
Dr. Tran Triet, director of the ICF’s Southeast Asia Program, said the wetlands in Kien Giang had been well protected as the feeding ground for the cranes from the year 2000 and before.
In 2004, 3,000 hectares of the area – home to various wild grass such as "co bang" (lepironia articulate) which grows in the area and acts as a shelter and feeding habitat for the cranes – were converted into farms.
Another 5,000 hectares were transformed into farming land two years later. Recently, the provincial authorities granted another 2,000 hectares for Holcim, a cement company, to build infrastructure and earmarked a different plot of land for Tai Phong granite firm.
The grass field of "co bang" in Ba Hon of Kien Giang, which had been a favorite roosting and feeding place of the red-headed crane and inspiring many memorable prize-winning photographs, was turned to construction site of the Holcim cement firm
In addition, farmers have also occupied a total area of 200,000 square meters and brought machines to dig canals and build embankments for irrigation.
It devastated the living habitat of the crane, Triet said firmly.
Besides the large-scale encroachment by humans, fires also pose a threat to the cranes’ living habitat, with 13 blazes destroying around 200 hectares of sedge last year alone.
“If the current trend continues, we may never see the cranes return in the next three years,” he warned.
The Sarus crane is one of 15 species of cranes worldwide and is found mainly in India and Southeast Asia. It is the tallest of them all, standing at six feet tall, with a wingspan measuring eight feet.
The Sarus cranes feed on aquatic plants, grains, insects, invertebrates, and small vertebrates.
"The Come-back of Spring" taken by Truong Vu. The photographer said he shot the picture right at the grass field in Ba Hon of Kien Giang before the year 2005. The area is now converted to a contruction project of Holcim cement plant