Protection of endangered Siberian Crane and crucial wetland sites connects biodiversity and human development
Bonn, 14 June 2010 - New conservation plans for the Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus covering its entire range and migration routes that span continents have now been endorsed to save the species from extinction. During its annual migration, the Siberian Crane travels 5,000 kilometers from its breeding grounds in Yakutia and western Siberia, intermediate resting and feeding places, to its wintering sites in southern China and Iran respectively.
During these extensive journeys along three migration routes, called flyways, they overcome considerable obstacles such as high mountains and vast deserts. Major threats like hunting in West and Central Asia and the drainage of critical wetlands in East Asia put them at an even greater risk. Only 3,000 to 3,500 birds remain globally.
During the last century agricultural use, dams, pollution and inappropriate water management, oil and urban development have destroyed 60% of wetlands in Europe and 90 % worldwide.
The United Nations Environment Programme's Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) convened this meeting in Bonn to enhance the future of this bird species protected under the auspices of the CMS Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning Conservation Measures for the Siberian Crane. This conservation tool, which was established in 1993, provided the framework for the ambitious Siberian Crane Wetland Project (SCWP) supported by UNEP's Global Environment Facility (GEF). Under the project, Government officials as well as experts and conservationists came together to adopt strategies to reduce hunting, improve water management and mitigate the impact of climate change.
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."
Captive breeding and the reintroduction of the species into the wild in West Siberia during the last 20 years have been conducted in response to significant declines in the Western and Central Asian populations, largely due to the loss of birds from hunting. The use of satellite technology for crane tracking, raising awareness at community level and better education of hunters form significant components of this conservation strategy.
The revision of the current strategy to include responses to existing and emerging threats, knowledge transfer from Europe and North America and improvements to national legislation will contribute towards a regional framework for sustainable hunting. Monitoring and research to better explore migration patterns and determine wintering grounds will help to protect the Siberian Crane across its range.