Thailand releases near-extinct cranes into the wild

For New Year, Thailand gave a gift of biodiversity. Thai officials released 13 Sarus cranes, commonly known as Thai cranes, into a national park on Christmas Day, seeding the forest with a species last seen in the wild half a century ago.

The release at dawn in the northeastern province of Buriram was a collaborative effort between the government, the Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo and the United Nations. It signaled a new day for the Sarus cranes, who were last spotted in the wild in 1968 when they were declared on the verge of extinction. Since 2011, they have been slowly reintroduced to their natural habitats.

“It is the only place where the Thai cranes are able to live and reproduce on their own,” said Buriram Governor Chaiwat Chuntirapong.

Now, there are an estimated 150 Sarus cranes living and breeding in the forested areas in the lower northeast. The 13 cranes birds were transported in large boxes from the Wetland and Eastern Sarus Crane Conservation Center where they were bred.

It was reported that the tall birds loudly honked and clumsily flapped as they unsteadily took to the skies accompanied by cheering children and spectators, noting the cranes’ red feathered heads made for a striking image as they soared into the skies on their flight to freedom.

Raising the birds so that they will be able to eventually survive in the wild is a difficult and time-consuming effort that requires knowledge, dedication and passion, all of which are in plentiful supply among Thai conservationists.

“The herdsman wears a suit that hides her body and wears a bird’s head puppet on her hands to teach the birds everything from feeding to familiarising them with nature,” said Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo researcher Tanat Uttaraviset.

While releasing the birds and restoring their population is the ultimate goal, the zoo also emphasizes educating the local people about the value of their native species and wildlife as they will take part in protecting and preserving them – with pride.

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