19 May. The Siberian Crane, one of the most threatened
of the world’s fifteen crane species, breeds in
Russia and winters in China, Iran and, formerly, India.
The epic annual migration of these beautiful cranes links
eleven countries, as the birds stop to rest and feed along
a chain of wetlands scattered across western, central
and eastern Asia.
Once numerous in the western part of its range, that
population of Siberian Cranes has dwindled to no more
than a few individuals, only one of which was seen at
its traditional wintering ground in Iran in Spring 2007.
The Eastern population, thought to comprise some 3-4,000
birds, appears to be stable but it faces increasing pressure
from development activities in China and Russia.
All eleven countries of the Siberian Cranes’ range
are now participating in the CMS Memorandum of Understanding
Concerning Conservation Measures for the Siberian Crane.
This pioneering CMS instrument – the first of its
kind – was created in 1993 to foster greater cooperation
among governments and partner organizations.
The Republic of Kazakhstan hosted the sixth of a regular
series of meetings of the signatories, in the former capital
of Almaty, from 15-19 May 2007. Hosted by the Forestry
and Hunting Committee, with organizational support from
CMS and the International Crane Foundation, the meeting
brought together 50 participants from across the region.
For the first time, there was official and/or technical
representation from all eleven Range States (Afghanistan,
Azerbaijan, China, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan,
Mongolia, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan). The Convention on Migratory Species was represented
by its Senior Advisor, Douglas Hykle, based in Bangkok.
Among the positive outcomes of the meeting were the following:
• The official launch of the Western and Central
Asian Site Network for Siberian Cranes and other Waterbirds
(WCASN-SC), with the inclusion of an initial 10 sites
from five countries (see related press release);
• Elaboration and adoption of new, detailed Conservation
Plans for each of the three flyways covered by the Siberian
Crane MoU, as well as agreement in principle on a new
streamlined reporting template to measure implementation
• Presentation and discussion of an exciting project
already begun by Russian colleagues to explore the potential
for releasing Siberian cranes into the wild using a human-led
migration technique; and agreement to set up a project
steering committee to ensure inputs from other partners;
• Review of important considerations related to
the eventual integration, within the MoU framework, of
activities currently being conducted under the GEF Siberian
Crane Wetlands Project, which will draw to a close in
• Agreement to investigate the possible establishment
of an international trust fund in order to leverage funds
from governments and other sources to support future Siberian
Crane conservation efforts;
• The inclusion of two additional partner organisations
in the ranks of the Memorandum of Understanding, with
signatures of representatives of Wetlands International
and the Cracid Conservation and Breeding Centre; and
• Recognition of other important initiatives with
which the Siberian Crane MoU will increasingly interact,
including the CMS Central Asian Flyway Action Plan and
the East Asia-Australasia Flyway Partnership.
The signatories tentatively agreed to hold their next
meeting around mid-late 2009, with several countries and
partners expressing interest in hosting the gathering.
It is hoped that, by then, the intensive conservation
efforts undertaken over the past two decades will have
begun to bear fruit
To learn more about the Kazakhstan meeting and related
Siberian Crane conservation activities, please visit the
Siberian crane meeting pages (click here);
GEF Siberian Crane Wetland
and the Siberian Flyway