Red-crowned cranes reappear in Mekong Delta

 After a year of absence, over 30 red-crowned cranes have returned to Phu My Biosphere Reserve and Tram Chim National Park in the Mekong Delta.

Phu My Biosphere Reserve in Kien Giang Province on Saturday confirmed the 30 cranes had been here for half a month. This year, however, they have not gathered among the grey sedge but instead found a quiet corner within the reserve. In the afternoon, the cranes typically flock to Anlung Pring, Cambodia to rest.

About 150 kilometers away, a family of three cranes was spotted in Tram Chim National Park of Dong Thap Province on Friday afternoon.

"This crane family has been returning here over three consecutive years, from 2017 to 2019, but in 2020 they didn’t come back," said Le Thanh Cu, vice director of Tram Chim National Park.

The three red-crowned cranes in Tram Chim National Park. Photo by VnExpress/Do Minh Chanh.

The three red-crowned cranes in Tram Chim National Park. Photo by VnExpress/Do Minh Chanh.

As a crane conservation volunteer at the International Crane Association, Nguyen Hoai Bao, vice director of Wetland Research Center at Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City - University of Science, immediately visited Tram Chim National Park after learning about the return of the red-crowned cranes.

Bao said since the cranes came back very late, they could only stay in the national park for a few days before departing. "Their normal cycle is to stay in the park until the end of April then fly to Cambodia to rest prior to the breeding season."

Tram Chim National Park was recognized as the world's 2,000th Ramsar site (a wetland designated to be of international importance under Ramsar Convention) and the first of the Mekong Delta, with an area of more than 7,300 hectares. It is one of the world's most famous stops for red-headed cranes, a factor that helped Tram Chim become a Ramsar site.

However, the number of rare cranes here has decreased rapidly over the years. Statistics showed that in 1998, the number of red-headed cranes in Tram Chim was 1,052 but by 2017 there were only nine. In 2018 and 2019, the number was 11.

Phu My Biosphere Reserve recorded the biggest number of red-crowned cranes in 2003, at more than 500. In 2016, the reserve was officially established, covering an area of nearly 2,900 hectares. The core area of 1,200 hectares is for grey sedge. By 2019, there were only 54 cranes returning here.

Bao said the decline in cranes has many reasons, mainly habitat loss. Natural wetland habitats across the Mekong Delta have been converted into agricultural and aquaculture land, disrupting the balance of ecosystems, resulting in little to no chance for cranes to thrive here.

Over past years, national reserves have focused on developing habitats to attract more cranes. However, Bao said changing the ecosystem to restore crane habitats would take many years.

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