With a migration route that crosses continents any plans that are to be put in place to help conserve the Siberian Crane, Grus leucogeranus, needs to take in many countries. The latest plans to help save this endangered bird – there’s only about 3,000 remaining – takes in Yakutia and Western Siberia through to China and Iran.
As the birds migrate from their breeding grounds in Siberia to their wintering grounds in China and Iran they have to tackle many threats. These range from hunting as they fly through West and Central Asia and loss of essential feeding grounds with the drainage of wetlands in East Asia. There are plenty of natural barriers in addition to the human ones. The cranes on their 5,000 mile migration have to cross mountains and deserts.
One of the major threats to the Siberian Crane is the potential damage to its main wintering site at the Poyang Lake in China’s Jiangxi Province. Projects in the area to manage the water and building a dam across the Yangtze River may impact on the quality of the wetlands. Poyang Lake is the wintering site of 99% of the world’s Siberian Crane population.
Working with the United Nations Environment Programme a number of countries have come together to help put in plans to protect the species and also to encourage breeding and growth in Siberian Crane numbers. Captive breeding, reduced hunting and better managed wetlands will play a key role in conserving the species. New technology such as satellite tracking will be used to get a better understanding of the birds migration paths.
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said: “During the International Year of Biodiversity, CMS continues to protect this majestic bird and its wetland habitats that are critical to humans and species alike. Not only these wetland ecosystems supply drinking water, but they act as a flood defence and as carbon sink to mitigate climate change.”
One of the biggest threats to the Siberian Crane is the lost of wetlands. wetlands are being drained for agriculture and developments land, there is also the increasing need of water for consumption and climate change is shifting rainfall patterns affecting wetlands that are critical habitat for the cranes and other birds. The International Crane Foundation and Wetlands International are working with the CMS and governments in Central Asia to improve the sustainability of important and major wetlands for migratory waterbirds.
Two new sites have been officially recognised as important for the crane and other migratory waterfowl – the Thanedar Wala Game Reserve (Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa) and the Taunsa Barrage (Punjab), both located in Pakistan - and will be managed accordingly.