Scarce Thai cranes make a soaring comeback
The Zoological Park Organization (ZPO) has declared success in increasing the Thai crane population over the course of the last decade.
Attapon Srihayrun, director of the ZPO of Thailand, lauded the close cooperation of partners -- including the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation; the International Crane Foundation (ICF); and academics -- for their assistance in the crane project.
Sarus cranes (more commonly known as "Thai cranes"), were nearly extinct 50 years ago but have made a strong recovery. In 2021, 133 were released into nature.
"This year," said Mr Attapon, "we will begin by releasing another group of 12 Thai cranes at Huai Charakhe Mak in Buri Ram province on Feb 13 to mark Valentine's Day, since the sarus crane is a symbol of eternal love and fidelity as they are monogamous and only have one mate for life".
Also this year, the ZPO is organising a sponsorship programme providing those who donate to the conservation project with regular reports of their sponsored crane.
Sarus cranes are among 15 species protected by the 1992 Wildlife Protection Act. The animal was last seen in the wild in 1968, and the birds are believed to have been extinct in the wetlands of Thailand for about half a century.
In 1989, Thailand received two cranes from Cambodia which were raised at Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo. The zoo's veterinarian team bred the birds in captivity, and by 2011 the population had reached 100.
The zoo released 10 sarus cranes into the wetlands of Huai Chorakhe Mak and Sanambin reservoirs in Buri Ram province that same year. There are thought to be well over 100 in the area today.
The success of such projects has rescued the sarus crane from the brink of extinction, Mr Attapon said.
Mr Attapon added the ZPO also is currently breeding red-headed vultures, of which only five are known to exist in the country, and that the bird has also long been close to extinction.
"It is a very challenging job as we have few of the vultures," he said.
"We have four in Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo and one in Thung Yai-Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary. We are now mating one male from the zoo with a female at the wildlife sanctuary," Mr Attapon added.
He said that in future the ZPO plans to release more red-headed vultures into nature at wildlife sanctuaries, saying that the bird is an important part of keeping natural balance in ecosystems.