Imagine you are on the Red List.
Your species is at the risk of extinction due to human interference causing habitat loss and plummeting wild populations.
This is currently the reality for more than 128,500 of the world’s animal species (IUCN, 2020), not just the highly publicized cases of the Bornean orangutan, the giant panda, and the Amur leopard. One of these species is the majestic sarus crane – our company’s mascot. This species has become so rare that over a span of almost two years, we have been able to spot it only once, majestically flying over the fields at dawn.
Standing at a height up to 1.8 metres, the sarus crane is the world’s tallest flying bird. In addition to its large size, its overall grey colour and contrasting red head make it easily distinguished from other cranes. The sarus crane is a nonmigratory bird that can be found in the wetlands of southern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar, as well as in the northern parts of Australia and some of the northern states of India. Like other cranes, the sarus crane form long-lasting bonds and mate for life – not a small feat for a species with a lifespan of up to 80 years! In the words of John Lockwood Kipling (1904: 37), the sarus crane is “regarded as a model of conjugal fidelity, from a belief that, if one of a pair of these handsome birds is killed, the other pines and never mates again.”
Could this strong bond between mates be the reason behind the bird’s Latin name Antigone, the heroine of the Greek legend of the same name, who took her own life after being locked away in a cave for illegally burying the body of her beloved brother?
On the other side of the world, the bird appears in Indian legend as well. Taking its name from Sanskrit (sarasa) meaning “lake water/bird.” Legend has it that Valmiki, famous poet and author of the epic Ramayana, was inspired to do so after witnessing a hunter kill a male sarus crane, whose partner then let out a long cry full of deep emotion. Other studies show that the word also means “to cry” or “call out,” or as it does in Tamil, “to dance,” which the birds also famously do with their partners when breeding season comes around (source).
Like with so many other animals, the future of the sarus crane is threatened. It is listed as vulnerable (VU) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, meaning it is “considered to be at high risk of unnatural (human-caused) extinction without further human intervention” (Mongabay, 2019). The wild populations inhabiting the wetlands of the Mekong Basin in southern Vietnam and Cambodia are particularly at risk as their numbers are decreasing due to various human-related threats, such as habitat degradation and destruction, hunting, and pollution.
In order to preserve this majestic bird for future generations to admire, it is crucial that we take measures to protect their coastal wetland habitat from further degradation and destruction. Thus, it is part of Strawlific’s mission to prevent the depletion of the local ecosystem along the Mekong River Delta. By providing livelihood opportunities for local farmers related to the harvesting of the naturally growing grey sedge plant, Strawlific helps to preserve the natural wetlands of the sarus crane by preventing them from turning into rice fields or industrial complexes.
We believe that the balance of a stable ecosystem and sustainable production and consumption approaches closely correlate and can help support each other. With this as our approach, we hope that we will be able to witness these awe-inspiring creatures more frequently in the future – not in zoos, but in the wilderness where they belong.
(Top photo: Abhinandan Sharma)