Community-based conservation initiatives or other social mobilisation efforts are often found to be more effective and result-oriented than those imposed from the top. One of the current exemplary local-level initiatives is the Sarus crane conservation efforts made by local residents of the Mantriphanta area of Bhajani Municipality in Kailali district. The rare species of birds, Sarus cranes (Antigone antigone), have begun reappearing in the area after a hiatus of 10 years, thanks to the locals conservation initiative. A decade ago, the birds had disappeared from the area because of the loss of their habitats. Nepal’s far-western region has natural wetlands as well as bushes and dense sub-tropical mixed forests. The lakes and forests are an important habitat for the Sarus cranes, which are referred to as ‘the friends of farmers’ because they live on snakes, insects and pests. Sarus cranes help control pests and contribute in good crop growth and grain harvests. The birds’ noise also alerts people about the sneaking cattle predators such as tigers and leopards.
As per a news report published in this daily, local conservationists have sighted three Sarus cranes in the Mantriphanta area this year. Until one decade ago, the birds used to be found in and around the Puraina Lake throughout the year. They could be seen hatching their chicks in the lake area. But they vanished from the area after the Puraina Lake was developed into agricultural land in 2009. It is certainly cheering for conservationists that the Sarus cranes have reappeared in the area after a decade. Local conservationist Bijay Raj Shrestha said that they had stopped sighting these birds in the area since 2010.
The Sarus cranes in the past used be found in plenty of numbers throughout the Terai plains in Nepal. Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts alone now possess good population of the migratory birds. Conservationists opine that the growing population of Sarus cranes shows a good ecological health of wetland, the habitat for those birds. The current population of the Sarus cranes in Nepal is estimated to be 450-700. These migratory birds are said to be capable of making high altitude flights. Local conservationists deserve the credit for the comeback of the invaluable birds. Other potential areas could also follow the example of the local conservationists in Kailali.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Sarus crane as ‘Vulnerable’ while it is placed as ‘Protected’ by Nepal’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2029According to the Act, hunting of the bird or destruction of its eggs is punishable by a jail term of three months to two years and a fine of Rs. 500 to Rs. 100,000 or both. Destruction and shrinking of wetland habitats has posed serious threat to Sarus cranes. It is needless to say that haphazard human encroachment has been responsible for the destruction of wetland habitats in the country.