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Standing over five feet with a wingspan of around eight feet, the sarus crane is the world’s tallest flying bird and is listed as “vulnerable” on IUCN’s Red List. This non-migratory bird is native to parts of South Asia, where it faces numerous threats including habitat loss and climate change. Nepal’s second largest population of sarus crane is found in the Lumbini World Heritage site, an important pilgrimage destination owing to its history as the birthplace of the Buddha. Though the site’s crane sanctuary offers some protection, the area has, in recent years, experienced prolonged dry spells which have caused wetlands and water sources to shrink.
Experts anticipate these changes in rainfall patterns in lowland Nepal to cause significant fluctuations in the breeding success of sarus cranes—particularly if the frequency and intensity of dry seasons increase. Moreover, erratic and extreme rainfall events, which are becoming more frequent with climate change, destroy the breeding grounds and nests of the sarus crane.
In an effort to reduce the impact of such hazards on sarus cranes, WWF is working with the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) to restore and create new wetlands that can better store water during dry spells, establish raised nesting grounds to minimize the impacts of flooding during heavy rainfall events, create dykes and embankments to reduce sedimentation, and plant native varieties of rice, which are both flood and drought-resistant and provide a food source for cranes. Project activities are currently underway and due to be completed in 2020.