The Mekong delta province of Can Tho is best known for its endless green rice fields and abundant orchards. The beautiful scenery is ornamented by thousands of storks spreading their wings against the sunset sky in Bang Lang garden.
Bang Lang stork garden in Thot Not District, 60 kilometers from Can Tho City, is one of the biggest bird sanctuaries in the Mekong delta. The path to Bang Lang crosses through vast rice fields under the shade of green bamboo trees.
The best time to visit this garden is spring when boat service is available. On the way visitors can enjoy the giant purple crape-myrtle (bang lang) flowers and their play of shadows on the water.
The twittering of the birds can be heard even far away from the garden named after the same bằng lăng flowers.
According to garden owner Nguyen Ngoc Thuyen, it is a mystery why the birds came to this area, which used to be a rice field surrounded by bamboos, water coconut trees, and nulgar bamboos.
He said, “Hundreds of birds began to inhabit this area in 1983. The number of storks grew drastically until 1992, when I had to plant more trees for them to shelter and lay eggs. The tour to the garden has been in operation since April, 1997. I think Thot Not District is a good area for the birds to perch. The birds are a natural resource and national property. Once they come to my land, I’m responsible for protecting them.”
Mr. Thuyen’s 12,500-square-meter garden is populated by 200,000 storks of 20 species. White storks and blue storks make up the largest number while the smallest bird is the red stork. Some rare birds also live in this garden, such as pelicans and herons.
The most stunning scenes are created at 6am when the birds leave home for food and again at 5pm when they return. Flocks of birds swiveling on the wind cover the red sky at dusk and dawn.
Mr. Thuyen has expended effort as well as his own money over the decades to preserve the storks, by which he has gained a deep understanding of the birds’ feeding, reproduction, and other habits.
During the dry season when their food becomes scarce, he has to ditch the canal, dig pond and breed fish, or buy fish from other farmers to stockpile food for the storks.
He’s busy all the time, according to Thuyen: “In 2011, I planted many trees to replace those destroyed by a severe flood. I take care of the garden every day. When a stork is wounded in the harsh weather, I bring it home to feed it and release it back to nature when it recovers. My happiness or sadness is wholly a reflection of this stork garden.”
The storks have been well taken care of and protected by Mr. Thuyen and his family since 1983. With a large number of travelers and researchers every day, Bang Lang stork garden has become an attractive eco-tourism site in Can Tho City.