Just before Khmer New Year, a Sarus Crane was released at WCS site Ang Trapeang Thmor (ATT). The Sarus Crane chick was rescued by Forestry Administration (FA) and WCS staff in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest in the Northern Plains in October last year where it had been captured by local people. Since then it has been reared at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), a nature conservation and endangered wildlife rescue and breeding centre north of Siem Reap.
Happily, the ACCB team were successful in rearing the bird without it becoming habituated to humans, making release back into the wild possible. ATT was selected as the release site as it is the most important non-breeding site for Sarus Cranes in South-east Asia, with hundreds of cranes coming here every year from January to April.
The crane was released by the ACCB team not too far from a flock of wild cranes, which had been located that morning by WCS rangers. Although initially stressed by its new surroundings and the bumpy ride, within less than half an hour the crane was feeding. Two hours after release, when a small group of wild cranes took off, the released crane flew up and joined them, and together the birds joined a large feeding flock 500m away where the team lost sight of it amongst the other birds.
Since then, WCS teams at ATT have kept an eye out for any isolated cranes, but to date none have been seen. The bird was also marked with a ring, so that we will be able to identify it in the future. So far we are confident that the captive-reared crane will fully reintegrate into the wild flock and will follow the experienced wild birds when they migrate next month back to their breeding grounds in the Northern Plains of Cambodia.
Sarus cranes are globally threatened, and are classified as Vulnerable, meaning that they are considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. With fewer than 1,000 cranes in the region, each individual is precious to the survival of the population. The successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of this Sarus crane is a wonderful achievement and great testament to the skill and commitment of ACCB. We are very pleased to that ACCB will continue to collaborate with WCS to help rescue and rehabilitate endangered species at WCS sites.