Naturelife Cambodia, a Cambodian conservation organisation, has reported a significant increase in sarus crane (Antigone antigone) numbers during the non-breeding season at Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary for 2022-2023.

The organisation conducted its annual census between December 2022 and May, covering various regions across the country. The latest census revealed a record-breaking 16 cranes at Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, spanning Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, and Kratie provinces. This number marks the highest count in the past five years.

NatureLife Cambodia said on June 6 that the sarus crane, the tallest bird capable of flight, was recorded during the 2022-23 census.

“This beautiful bird, once widely distributed across Southeast Asia, has experienced a rapid decline in its population due to wetland loss, habitat degradation, conversion, hunting, and egg collection,” it said.

It added that the species is currently listed as vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Neth Pheaktra, environment ministry spokesman, confirmed that the 16 cranes were recorded at Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary. Other locations, such as the Anlong Pring protected landscape in Kampot province and the Boeung Prek Lapouv protected Landscape in Takeo province, have not yet been included in the census due to the need for further study and data collection.

“In the 2021-2022 census, we recorded 156 cranes. We are currently collecting data for the 2022-2023 census, and we hope to release a report soon,” he said. “The rising number of cranes in their breeding grounds at Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary suggests we can anticipate an increase in their population elsewhere”

Pheaktra attributed the surge in crane numbers to three main factors. Firstly, the protection of crane nests has been crucial. Secondly, setting clear borders has raised awareness among local residents about the cranes’ breeding areas. Lastly, educational initiatives have played a significant role.

“We conduct outreach programmes to educate the people residing in the vicinity. This encourages greater participation in conservation efforts alongside the environment ministry and partner organisations,” he said.

Pheaktra highlighted the ministry’s collaborative efforts with partner organisations in the conservation of cranes and their habitats. He said park rangers regularly patrol the crane habitats to study the effects of climate change and ensure that wetland management remains efficient.