- Prem Bastola / Raju Jhallu Prasad
Kathmandu: A significant awareness-raising Madarasa educational program has been carried out at the local level for the conservation of the endangered Sarus Crane, which holds historical and religious significance with Gautam Buddha and the Buddhist religion.
The Zoological Society and the Central Department of Zoology at Tribhuvan University, with financial support from WWF Nepal and the International Crane Foundation, conducted a study titled “The Status of Sarus Crane in Nepal.” This study focused on community-based initiatives for Sarus Crane conservation in the vicinity of Lumbini.
In the Greater Lumbini region, the population of the endangered Sarus Crane is observed to be relatively low. Although direct connections between the Sarus Crane and Hinduism and Buddhism have been identified, there is a recognized need to involve the Muslim community through the medium of Madrasa education in the conservation programs. This was emphasized by Rajendra Narayan Suwal, the prominent figure and coordinator of the Sarus Crane and WWF Nepal partnership program.
“Lumbini, being the center of the Buddhist religion, has attracted followers of mixed faiths for a long time. The presence of a diverse Muslim community residing in the vicinity of Lumbini, around the birthplace of Buddha, adds to the beauty of Lumbini. Among the various migratory birds that frequent the Simsar area, the Sarus Crane stands out as the most striking bird listed in Schedule 2 and IUCN’s Red List,” stated Rajendra Narayan Suwal.
He further added, “The active participation of the locals is essential and imperative in every conservation program, and we have also incorporated Madrasa education to contribute to Sarus Crane conservation. This collaboration will be significant, even when the state government takes initiative in the conservation efforts. Additionally, we have enthusiastic and informed young individuals who are already operating a club dedicated to Sarus Crane conservation, which is a matter of great joy,” he shared.
The Ancient Settlement of the Muslim Community in Lumbini:
The Muslim community has a long-standing presence around the Lumbini region. According to archaeologist Basant Bidari, they have been residing in the Lumbini area since the 17th century. During that time, there were Muslim followers in places ranging from Kapilavastu’s Krishna Nagar to Rupandehi’s Marchwar and Bhairahawa. When the land acquisition took place for the development of Lumbini Development Trust, the Muslim community residing there willingly accepted compensation and relocated to the outskirts.
In the Lumbini region, there are several Madrasas operating, including Al-Jamia Faizul Islamia, Vijayanagar-5, Kapilavastu; Faizul Uloom Madrasa, Mayadevi-3, Kapilavastu; Darul Uloom Mohammadiya Madrasa, Mayadevi-2, Kapilavastu; Kulliya Sumaiya Lilbanat Madrasa, Mayadevi-4, Kapilavastu; and Nurul Huda Ahle Sunnat Pravi Vidyalaya, among others.
Manur Hussain, a member of the School Management Committee of Jamia Faizul Islam Al-Salafia, mentioned that they have been actively involved in the conservation of various species, including Sarus Cranes and other wetland birds in Lakes. “WWF Nepal has provided support to this Madrasa, offering education and training related to conservation. They have educated students and parents about conservation, which has led to their active involvement in the protection of Sarus Cranes and other wetland species”, he stated.
Parents Educated through Children:
Sarus Crane expert Suwal mentioned, “Through the Madrasa, We had the opportunity to share our experiences about the significance of Sarus Cranes with young children, which proved to be incredibly impactful. As a result, the interest in conserving the Sarus Crane exceeded expectations. Moreover, this also led to the realization that when it comes to conservation of any living being, especially Sarus Cranes, it is essential to involve the local community from the very beginning and conduct awareness-raising programs collaboratively.”
Suwal also highlighted that the educational system should incorporate such topics in the curriculum to further expand and promote such initiatives. Although there is still work to be done in this regard, progress has been made.
He pointed out that the challenge of conserving Sarus Cranes is not exclusive to Nepal; it is a global issue. Therefore, providing awareness-oriented education to local children and adolescents is vital. He added, “When the Maulanas (Teachers) explain the importance of Sarus Crane conservation, the children voluntarily stop disturbing the birds or their nests. But it doesn’t end there; after receiving knowledge about the significance of Sarus Cranes through Madrasa education, these young learners go back home and raise awareness among their parents.”
Suwal’s efforts have shown that providing conscious education to local children and adolescents through Madrasas can be highly effective in raising awareness about the importance of Sarus Crane conservation. The involvement of children in disseminating knowledge to their parents further strengthens the conservation initiatives. The program emphasizes that the conservation of Sarus Cranes is not just a responsibility confined to Nepal but a global challenge that demands collective efforts and awareness.
The Necessity of Sarus Crane Conservation and its Impact on Biodiversity:
Sarus Crane conservation is essential as it contributes to the preservation of biodiversity. Local children and adolescents are being provided with awareness-oriented education through Madrasas, and this has shown significant impact. According to Sarus Crane expert Suwal, children have become more aware of the importance of conserving Sarus Cranes, leading to a positive change in their behavior towards the birds.
Sarus Crane conservation and the conservation of the Simsar region are interconnected. The efforts to protect the Sarus Cranes have also contributed to the conservation of the wetland habitat in the Simsar area. The conservation of wetlands like Simsar is crucial for agriculture production as they serve as natural water reservoirs and help regulate water flow.
Furthermore, the presence of Sarus Cranes in the Lumbini region has a positive impact on tourism development. Birdwatching and ecotourism opportunities have emerged due to the presence of Sarus Cranes, attracting tourists interested in wildlife and bird species. This has potential economic benefits for the local communities, providing them with livelihood opportunities through tourism-related activities.
Under the leadership of Sarus Crane expert Suwal, a team of researchers from Tribhuvan University’s Central Department of Zoology conducted a study on the distribution and population of Sarus Cranes in various districts of Lumbini Province in April and May. The study found a total of 690 Sarus Cranes in Nepal. This study was conducted during the pre-breeding season, and it is believed that the number could increase further during the breeding season, especially during monsoon when more Sarus Cranes are likely to be found.
Long-Term Water Management is Vital for Sarus Crane Conservation:
In addition, the study highlighted the need for long-term water management in the Simsar region, which the government at all levels must consider. Suwal emphasized that where there is available and well-managed water, the presence of Sarus Cranes increases, and they engage in more breeding and nesting activities in such areas. Therefore, establishing well-managed water sources in the region, even in places where water is scarce, can create potential agricultural Simsar areas and facilitate Sarus Crane conservation.
The proper management of water resources is crucial for maintaining wetland habitats and providing the necessary conditions for Sarus Cranes to thrive. Adequate water availability ensures the survival of wetland vegetation and aquatic organisms, creating a suitable environment for the cranes to forage and nest.
By focusing on long-term water management, authorities can ensure the sustainability of the Simsar region and its conservation value, benefiting not only Sarus Cranes but also other wetland-dependent species. Conserving the wetland habitats will ultimately support the ecological balance and provide various ecological services, making it a valuable asset for both wildlife and local communities.
The study has brought to light several concerning challenges that are contributing to the growth of Sarus Crane population, and these include rapid urbanization, chemical pollution, encroachment on the Simsar region, and expansion of high-tension power lines. These issues have raised serious concerns among concerned authorities.
“The fundamental challenge lies in how to conserve and manage water sources effectively. It requires collaboration and awareness among local communities, all levels of government, and subject experts. The drying up of natural water sources in the Chure and Bhawar regions and the scarcity of water for the ‘Chapakals’ are evident problems. The direct impact of these issues affects not only Sarus Cranes but also the human population and the entire environment,” Suwal explained. He emphasized that failure to address these issues promptly could lead to significant threats in the near future.
“Sarus Cranes Spotted in Various Locations”
During the course of the study, the researchers encountered the rare Sarus Crane population at various locations in Nepal. They were able to observe and survey a total of 690 Sarus Cranes, which are classified as a rare species in the country.
The specific areas where the researchers spotted Sarus Cranes for their detailed survey include the artificial lakes of Jagdishpur Kritrim Tal and Bajaha Tal in Kapilvastu, Vishnupura, Gaindahawa Tal, Khadaiya Inta Bhatta, Dui Muhana, Majhagau, Aurahi Purba, Babai Durga Mandir, Aazmaghat, Parasi’s Nandan Tal, Bhagawanpur in Banke, and 5 in Kanchanpur.
Among these locations, 652 Sarus Cranes were found in the larger Lumbini region (200 in Kapilvastu, 382 in Rupandehi, and 70 in Parasi), 33 in Banke, and 5 in Kanchanpur. This significant encounter with Sarus Cranes in these regions highlights the importance of their conservation efforts and monitoring their populations in the various habitats they inhabit.