Organic farms help Thailand welcome cranes lost for 50 years

A fuzzy-headed baby sarus crane hatched on a rural farm this fall offers a glimmer of hope for wildlife conservationists, organic farming advocates and a nation grieving after the death of their beloved king. Thats because this chubby chick named Rice is the first of its auspicious species to survive after hatching in the wild in Thailand in 50 years.

The tallest flying birds in the world, 70 incubator-hatched, hand-fed sarus cranes have been raised and released over the past five years in Thailands farm-rich northeast province of Buriram, whooping their startling two-toned song at dawn.

The older generations told us about these cranes, they said they bring luck, but when I actually saw one in my field I was so excited, village leader Thongpoon Unjit said.

He and dozens of other farmers stopped using pesticides and parked their noisy tractors to help the birds survive. They hand-harvest for acres and leave large swaths untouched around nests.

Already the birds have brought good fortune: The farmers organic rice sells for a premium at Bangkok supermarkets.