The first pair of black-necked cranes arrived in Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse, on November 5, signaling the return of the endangered birds to one of its winter habitats in Bhutan.
According to officials of Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS), the pair landed in Bumdeling valley around 11:30am on November 5.
Park manager, Karma Tempa, said they are expecting more than 100 cranes to arrive by February next year in Bumdeling. Last year a total of 102 cranes arrived in Bumdeling after dropping to 91 in 2016 from 108 in 2015.
He said that to draw more number of cranes, BWS has taken several initiatives to develop and restore the roosting and feeding grounds for the cranes.
Recently some five acres of paddy fields were improved and restored with support from Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN). Barren paddy fields were also rehabilitated and about 20km of electric fencing were provided surrounding the area.
According to park officials, one of the possible reasons for the decreasing number of cranes in Bumdeling was because of disturbance at the cranes’ feeding grounds.
Following numerous flash floods in the area, feeding grounds (paddy fields) are washed away. These areas then remain unattended resulting in limited feeding grounds for the cranes.
Another reason for the decreasing number of the winged visitors could be from the increasing feral dog population, according to Karma Tempa.
He said that although no casualties have been recorded in the recent years, the increasing dog population remained a threat to the cranes.
To reduce the growing dog population in the area, BWS carried out a sterilisation campaign recently where more than 100 dogs were sterilised.
The park also diverted water from the river into a paddy field that is centrally located to create an artificial island for the cranes to roost.
The first pair was spotted roosting in that area.
Usually the cranes are seen roosting alongside the sandbanks in Bumdeling.
Two conservation and support groups each at Yangtse and Bumdeling gewogs have been formed to clean and clear any obstacles that could possibly disturb the flight of the cranes at the roosting and feeding areas.
Awareness campaigns on conserving the cranes are also conducted in the community on a timely basis.
To attract more cranes, the park manager said that farmers in the two areas are discouraged to carry any forms of winter cropping and leave the fields empty for the cranes to feed on.
It was learnt that the farmers complied and refrained from taking up any sort of winter cultivation. “As a token of appreciation, we provided six power tillers in Yangtse and four mini-tillers in Bumdeling to the farmers to help them maximise their summer cultivation,” said Karma Tempa. “However, this is not a compensation to the farmers. It is a gesture of gratitude from us to the farmers.”
The migration period for the cranes starts by October and lasts until February. By the end of March, the last group of cranes leaves their winter ground for higher altitudes.
In Bumdeling, the first cranes usually arrive by the end of October and early November.
Younten Tshedup | Trashigang