Neten Dorji | Bumdeling

After the first pair arrived on November 5, 74 cranes have arrived in Bumdeling, Trashiyangtse, as of January 7.

Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS) officials are expecting more cranes to arrive by the end of February this year. They, however, say the number of cranes visiting Bumdeling is declining since they first started counting it since 1987.

Officials said more than 200 cranes had arrived in 1987 and it decreased to 160 the following year. The highest number of 203 cranes was recorded in 1994. With only 91 cranes, the least number of cranes was recorded in 2017.

Even local residents agree with officials that the number of cranes is declining.

Kuenga Tshering, 67, said hundreds of cranes fed in their paddy fields decades ago. “The cranes and people mingled together in the fields.”

He claimed a pair of crane used to first fly to Bumdeling to check if farmers were done with paddy harvesting. “But we don’t see that now.”

Local residents believe that the cranes bring them luck.

Meanwhile, cranes migrate to its winter habitat by October till mid-February and leave by March.

BWS park manager, Karma Tempa, said disturbances of feeding grounds could have resulted in the decreasing number of cranes, as floods washed away many feeding and roosting grounds.

He said that as per the studies they conducted, most fields were left unattended, which lead to a decrease in number of feeding grounds. “Cranes fed on the fallen grains and leftovers in fields.”

He also said the alnus species trees that grew after floods could have affected the crane flight.

Official from the park also said that the expansion of Yangtse town has also indirectly contributed to decreasing feeding ground for the cranes.

They said although dzongkhag and local government had been supportive in crane conservation efforts, there was pressure from growing structures.

They also said livestock grazing and stray dogs also affected the cranes.

The park manager said to attract more cranes, the park, with the help of Royal Society for Protection of Nature and other organisations have retained the roosting area and provided farm machineries and electric fencing to encourage farming activities.

“We can draw more cranes if farmers could revive farming activities in Bumdeling gewog,” Karma Tempa said.

He also said BWS is conducting conservation awareness campaign on a timely basis. “Starting from this year, instead of welcoming cranes like in Phobjikha, we are planning to give farewell to the cranes to create awareness to the community.”