The three red-crowned cranes in Tram Chim National Park. Photo by VnExpress/Do Minh Chanh.
As a crane conservation volunteer at the International Crane Association, Nguyen Hoai Bao, vice director of Wetland Research Center at Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City - University of Science, immediately visited Tram Chim National Park after learning about the return of the red-crowned cranes.
Bao said since the cranes came back very late, they could only stay in the national park for a few days before departing. "Their normal cycle is to stay in the park until the end of April then fly to Cambodia to rest prior to the breeding season."
Tram Chim National Park was recognized as the world's 2,000th Ramsar site (a wetland designated to be of international importance under Ramsar Convention) and the first of the Mekong Delta, with an area of more than 7,300 hectares. It is one of the world's most famous stops for red-headed cranes, a factor that helped Tram Chim become a Ramsar site.
However, the number of rare cranes here has decreased rapidly over the years. Statistics showed that in 1998, the number of red-headed cranes in Tram Chim was 1,052 but by 2017 there were only nine. In 2018 and 2019, the number was 11.
Phu My Biosphere Reserve recorded the biggest number of red-crowned cranes in 2003, at more than 500. In 2016, the reserve was officially established, covering an area of nearly 2,900 hectares. The core area of 1,200 hectares is for grey sedge. By 2019, there were only 54 cranes returning here.
Bao said the decline in cranes has many reasons, mainly habitat loss. Natural wetland habitats across the Mekong Delta have been converted into agricultural and aquaculture land, disrupting the balance of ecosystems, resulting in little to no chance for cranes to thrive here.
Over past years, national reserves have focused on developing habitats to attract more cranes. However, Bao said changing the ecosystem to restore crane habitats would take many years.