The Memorandum of Understanding concerning
Conservation Measures for the Siberian Crane was
concluded under CMS auspices in 1993, and was the
first such instrument to be considered an agreement
under Article IV (4) of the Convention. Originally
concentrating on the highly endangered Western and
Central Populations of Siberian cranes, which migrate
between breeding grounds in Western Siberia and wintering
sites in Iran and India, respectively, the scope of
the Memorandum was extended in 1998 to cover the larger
Eastern Population which winters around Poyang Lake,
China, and accounts for over 95% of the species.
The Siberian crane MoU now has nine Signatory States:
Azerbaijan, China, India, Islamic Republic of Iran,
Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russian Federation (the latest
to join), Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is hoped
that the two remaining Range States - Afghanistan
and Mongolia - will become members in the not too
Fourth Meeting of Siberian Crane Range States was
held at the headquarters of the International Crane
Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in May 2001.
(The three previous meetings took place in Moscow;
Bharatpur, India, and Ramsar, Islamic Republic of
Iran, between 1995 and 1998.) The 30 delegates in
attendance included representatives of eight of the
Range States concerned.
Discussions at the meeting focussed on reviewing
implementation of the Conservation Plan over the previous
two years, updating or elaborating the Conservation
Plans for all three populations, and finalising preparations
for an associated Siberian Crane/Wetlands GEF project
being carried out in Kazakhstan, Russian Federation,
Iran and China. The full proceedings of the meeting,
including the text of the MoU and revised Conservation
Plans, are available from the CMS Secretariat.
While the numbers of cranes observed on the known
wintering areas in Iran and India remain alarmingly
small, there is some reason for optimism in what is
not known about the migratory behaviour of these intrepid
birds. There is evidence to suggest that there are
breeding, stopover and wintering areas yet undiscovered
that may hold promise for the future survival of the
Siberian crane in the western and central parts of
Enormous commitment and ingenuity has already been
poured into efforts to bring about the recovery of
these magnificent birds. Coordination of efforts will
be further strengthened with the recruitment in 2002
of a dedicated Flyway Officer, funded by CMS and ICF.
Ultimately, the continued existence of these populations
depends on our ability to develop techniques to release
captive birds to bolster the dwindling wild flocks.
Here too there are grounds to be hopeful. In 2002,
Crane Foundation has teamed up with the All-Russian
Research Institute for Nature Protection and a world-renowned
hang-glider pilot to try to lead a flock of young,
captive-bred Siberian cranes along part of their traditional
migratory route between Russia and Iran. This bold
initiative is an adaptation of a similar programme
using ultralight aircraft, which has shown promise
for endangered Whooping Cranes in the United States.
It will take several years of hard work to determine
whether or not this technique can be adapted to the
challenging conditions of Central Asia. In the meanwhile,
the other elements of the detailed Conservation Plans
are being actively pursued by all the partners involved.