Second chance for Cambodia’s big birds after wildlife sanctuary saved

For a suspenseful three years, Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary seemed doomed. But now, changed policies, changed hearts and a new organic rice scheme promises hope for the forest landscape’s villagers, businesses and giant birds.

“What’s happening to my home?” If birds think rationally (and there’s evidence to suggest they can) then this thought may have been in the heads of a family of Sarus Cranes as they stood, powerless, watching monster machinery tear up their habitat. Sovannarith Thol was at the scene a few years ago: “Many people know that habitat loss is the biggest cause of extinction, but they are distanced from the reality,” says the Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary Project Manager from the BirdLife Cambodia Programme. “Seeing birds witness this destruction in front of their eyes made it painfully real.”

Sarus Cranes Antigone antigone (Vulnerable) are spectacularly impressive; reaching up to six feet tall with a wingspan of about eight feet, they are the world’s tallest flying birds. And at Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, they’re in good company: birds here are big. Also stalking through the marshes are Greater and Lesser Adjutants Leptoptilos dubius and Leptoptilos javanicus, (Endangered and Vulnerable) and Green Peafowl Pavo muticus (Endangered), imposing in their own foreboding and beautiful ways and all standing at over a metre tall.

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