Bangkok’s Rare Storks
||storks nesting beside the Wat Phai Lom temple
[credit: Dr Martin Williams]
The mission of many temples and monasteries – whatever their faith – is to be places of sanctuary. But Wat Phai Lom, on the outskirts of Bangkok, provides a very special form of sanctuary: for thousands of birds, seeking a place to breed.
In 1955 the open-billed stork was almost extinct in Thailand – and indeed almost everywhere else in Asia. The only remaining colony was at Phai Lom Temple, and even there, and even with the species being protected by law after 1960, the birds were persecuted by poachers who attacked them with slingshots.
It took the monks and supportive conservationists reminding people of their Buddhist beliefs, to stop the hunting. Wat Phai Lom’s status as a bird sanctuary is now established by law, and more importantly is recognised by the community. Some of this work was supported by WWF’s Network of Religions and Conservation.
In 1964 there were just 4,000 open-billed storks in Thailand. By 1980 there were about 30,000. Today there are many more: so many that in January 2003 the villagers of Ban Than village were complaining that the huge population of birds were raiding their fruit orchards.
Buddhist teachings emphasise the importance of co-existing with nature, rather than trying to conquer it. Devout Buddhists try to live a lifestyle that involves conservation rather than waste, compassion rather than intolerance.
Websites with more information:
The full story of the Wat Phai Lom storks
Buddhist Perception of Nature and protecting the open-billed storks