Wildlife organisation officials have drawn attention to the presence of sarus cranes in six provinces of Cambodia. The population remains larger than that of Laos or Vietnam. 

Bou Vorsak, Cambodia programme manager at BirdLife International, explained on January 1 that sarus cranes (Antigone antigone) are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List. 

“As a species on the brink of extinction, the Ministry of Environment and its partner organisations are working to protect and conserve this unique species,” he said.

He added that the cranes are present in the Ang Trapeang Thmor protected landscape in Banteay Meanchey province, the Boeung Prek Lapouv Protected Landscape Area in Takeo province and the Anlung Pring Protected Landscape in Kampot. The cranes forage for food in these locations from December to January each year.

He continued that they also breed and hatch in the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri provinces, as well as the Kulen Prum Tep Wildlife Sanctuary in Preah Vihear province, hence the Kingdom having a larger population than its neighbours. 

“The fact that so many remain is due to our conservation efforts of the past ten years. We have worked to resolve several issues in these locations, in the hope that this would remove many factors that threaten the birdlife,” he said.

Citing a 2022-2023 census, Vorsak explained that his organisation’s 2022-2023 census recorded 180 cranes, while the 2021-2022 census had seen just 156 individuals.

The increase was fantastic news for conservationists, and they were eagerly awaiting the results of the latest census, which has just begun.

“The presence of the cranes is important to support the entire ecosystem and attracts birdwatchers from many different countries. This in turn plays a part in improving the livelihoods of local communities,” he added. 

He believed that Cambodia was right to be proud about its high population of the rare creatures, but warned that without dedicated conservation efforts, the numbers would be far lower.

He called for the public to play their part in conservation efforts, by not buying or consuming bushmeat.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Cambodia) noted that the birds appear in sculptures and wall carvings on the walls of Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple and the Banteay Chhmar Temple, clearly illustrating the species’ centuries old presence in the Kingdom.

“Nowadays, Cambodia is the most important habitat of the sarus crane,” it added.