Lord Buddha’s bird under threat in his birthplace

  • Officials plan to declare Sarus Crane as ‘Bird of Lumbini’
- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu
Sarus Crane has a special status in Lumbini and Buddhism

Nov 26, 2018-Endangered Sarus Crane, also known as Lord Buddha’s bird, has been facing further threat in areas around Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

Fragmentation of their habitat, use of pesticides in agricultural lands, collision with high-tension electricity lines, hunting, pollution and other human activities have posed threats to the non-migratory bird, believed to have lived in Nepal for centuries.

According to George W Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and a leading crane conservationist in the world, the impact of human activities threaten the existence of cranes. “The crane species has become rare because we are doing selfish activities to destroy their habitat,” said Archibald.

Cranes are the longest surviving bird species. Among all the cranes, Sarus (Grus Antigone) is the tallest of all, and tallest bird to fly.

Nepal is home to Deomiselle crane, Common crane and Sarus crane, but Common and Demoiselle migrate from north Asian countries to Nepal whereas Sarus crane is a non-migratory species that permanently resides here.  

In Nepal, cranes thrive in the western districts from Chitwan to Kanchanpur. Of the estimated less than 500 population in the country, their concentration is heavy around Lumbini, where nearly 300 Sarus cranes live. Slow breeding rate and hatching of only two eggs every year are other reasons for cranes’ limited number.

Lumbini Development Trust Vice Chairman Metteyya Sakyaputta said Sarus crane has a special status in the ancient tradition of Lumbini and Buddhism.

Legend says Lord Buddha treated a Sarus crane, injured by his cousin Devdutta, and later released it in Lumbini jungle.

“While we protect the legacy of the Lumbini and teaching of Lord Buddha, we should also conserve Sarus that can be a symbol of harmony between nature and humanity. Loss of habitat to due to expanding brick industries and shrinking of available wetlands are challenges to the conservation of Sarus,” said Sakyputta.

Since 1994, the Lumbini Development Trust with support from the International Crane Foundation conserves cranes at the Lumbini Crane Sanctuary, which covers 256 acres under the Lumbini Master Plan area.

However, rising population, shrinking of rice farms that also served as wetland, and the massive use of pesticides have adversely affected Sarus population.

Now, the trust and local government are gearing up to declare the Sarus crane as

the ‘Bird of the Lumbini City’, a move to inspire local communities to take part in its conservation.   Giving the example of Cambodia where they recovered from only three cranes to 800 after locals communities managed wetlands, Archibald said, local authorities need to engage communities using available technology.

“Technology should be creatively used to make people understand the value of these birds otherwise they are not going to take part in the conservation. The sanctuary can disseminate conservation messages through pilgrims and the religious site.”

Published: 26-11-2018 07:29

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