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Fears of extinction for West Siberian cranes due to cruel hunting in Iran and Pakistan

By The Siberian Times reporter
12 August 2015

Birds that Vladimir Putin tried to save have 'almost disappeared' due to illegal shooting.

In the 1980s, there were at least 280 cranes which wintered in the Keoladeo Nature Reserve near Agra in India. By 2012, the population had sunk to just 18 birds. Picture: hosdom.ru 

Only a 'few pairs' of the West Siberian population of the Siberian crane now remain in the lower reaches of the Ob River, warned Dr Lev Vartapetov, deputy director of the Institute of Systematics and Ecology of Animals in Novosibirsk.

'The last birds are killed during their passage to  the wintering grounds in Iran and Pakistan. There, the Siberian crane is not protected and it is very difficult to establish contacts for the protection of birds in these countries.'

In the 1980s, there were at least 280 cranes which wintered in the Keoladeo Nature Reserve near Agra in India. By 2012, the population had sunk to just 18 birds. 

The same year, President Putin took part in an audacious exercise to persuade captivity-bred cranes to migrate from the Yamal peninsula in Western Siberia to central Asia, rather than Iran or Pakistan.

He flew in a hang-glider to lead six Siberian cranes in flight in September 2012. However, the cranes failed to take the hint and did not go south that year.

The crisis is in marked contrast with Siberian cranes in the Sakha Republic - or Yakutia - which winter in China.

Vladimir Putin


white cranes


Vladimir Putin


Vladimir Putin

 President Putin took part in an audacious exercise to persuade captivity-bred cranes to migrate from the Yamal peninsula in Western Siberia to central Asia, rather than Iran or Pakistan. Pictures: kremlin.ru, Russia Today

'The population is stable both in breeding areas in Yakutia and in the wintering grounds in China,' said Dr Vartapetov. 'Siberian ornithologists cooperate with the Chinese over conservation of birds. In total in Yakutia live about 200 pairs of Siberian Cranes. Chinese scientists have counted about  2,000 cranes in the wintering grounds.'

Experts are working at Oka State Nature Reserve  in Ryazan region work is underway to 'restore the fading Western Siberian population' of cranes, he said. Meanwhile, strong warnings have been issued in Pakistan over the threat to the birds. 

In January, Kashif Majeed Salik, a senior official of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), expressed the fear over a growing trend of illegal shooting of migratory Siberian cranes and Bustards in winter.

'If the practice continues, extinction will be the ultimate fate for the endangered migratory birds which would also badly hit the eco-system,' he said. The cranes were being 'hunted indiscriminately', he said.

Siberian crane in Yakutia


Siberian cranes in Yakutia


Siberian cranes in Yakutia


Sergey Sleptsov

Siberian cranes in the reserve Kytalyk, in Yakutia (Skaha Republic). Pictures: Sergey Sleptsov, Tayil, Andrey Kamenev/National Geographic Russia

Ten months ago, newspaper The Nation warned that 'up to 25,000 Siberian cranes are killed or trapped in the country due to excessive hunting', citing a revealing analysis by Divisional Forest Officer Wildlife Abdul Halim who spoke at a gathering of hunters.

Shooting and live trapping of birds had separated 25,000 more cranes from their pairs, he said. Widespread hunting 'posed a serious threat to the survival of cranes and, therefore, the government had banned hunting', he said.

Illegal hunting should be avoided, he said. 

'Hunters should act upon the relevant laws. They should extend support to the wildlife department to save cranes and other wildlife species and their natural habitats,' he said.

The tragedy of the depletion of these birds is highlighted by an announcement in November 2014 that 'the last Siberian crane has returned to Iran for the seventh consecutive year'.

Crane Omid


Crane Omid

Omid - Persian for 'Hope' - is the only remaining Siberian crane to keep returning to Iran. Pictures: Leandher Kill, Parisa Khalafbeigi

Locals named the crane Omid - Persian for 'Hope' - when it landed at Fereydunkenar wetland after a winter migration. 'Omid flies a distance of about 6,000 km each year to arrive in Iran,' said the report from Mehr News Agency. While the attention to this crane is commendable, its rarity nowadays is so sad.

In the past, Iran was favoured by cranes from Western Siberia. The same report stated: 'In 2007, three cranes entered Fereydunkenar wetland, two of which were unfortunately shot. Omid is the only remaining Siberian crane to keep returning to Iran.'

Fereydunkenar is a resort on the Caspian Sea. Its wetland has one of the richest ecosystems among the northern cities of Iran.

Dr Vartapetov's institute is part of the the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 

Siberian crane that got lost and accidentally landed in the wetlands in the north of New Taipei (Taiwan). Pictures: 金山小白鶴, Chiu Ming-Yuan

Siberian crane in Taiwan


Siberian crane in Taiwan


Siberian crane in Taiwan

Comments (5)

Thank God the heroic efforts. My kids favorite movie is fly away home.
Photographer, artist,outdoorsman.
There needs to be more balance in our globally connected universe.
If I can he!p let me know.
419 410 8484
Dave Rudd.
Dave, Maumee Ohio. Us
31/10/2016 11:49
1
0
Why is mankind so passionate about killing ,cranes.... birds...bears...gorillas ...lions...apes etc. etc. and also killing each other.
Why oh why ,can't we control our barbarian instincts.
Leurope, Australia
01/06/2016 10:33
2
0
I wish this crane 金山小白鶴 could back to its family land to live with its families.
Patrik, Taiwan
17/08/2015 22:08
9
1
We adore this crane 金山小白鶴.
Patrik, Taiwan
17/08/2015 21:54
10
0
Such a sad indication of how man's tunnel vision for "supremacy trophies" can alter the fate of another species...one that is just as valid, just as crucial to our "big picture" When will man wake up to the butterfly effect...if our brains are supposedly more sculptured why does this sort of devastating savagery exist?
Carmen, Ireland
14/08/2015 06:23
17
0
1

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