Collaboration between US and Russian Scientists Protects Critical Breeding Habitat for Cranes

Inga Bysykatova recording data on four pairs of Siberian Cranes distributed across a vast coastal wetland bordering the Laptev Sea in the Ust-Yana District of northern Yakutia.  This sighting represented the first record of Siberian Cranes breeding in coastal wetlands in the arctic in Yakutia. Photo by Gary Krapu

By Claire Mirande
Senior Director of Conservation Networking

At the North American Crane Workshop in 2008, ICF had the pleasure to host our long-term colleague, Inga Bysykatova, from the Institute of Biological Problems of the Cryolithozone (IBPC) in Yakutia, Russia.  Inga had been studying Sandhill Cranes that migrated from Texas, across Alaska, to breed on the tundra in far eastern Russia.  Inga and her colleagues had hosted me on three trips to the tundra to capture and mark Siberian Cranes.  I learned that Inga’s lifelong dream was to see her Sandhills on their wintering grounds, which she was able to do after the meeting.  I had the opportunity to introduce her to Dr. Gary Krapu from the US Geologic Survey, who is studying the mid-continental population of Sandhill Cranes and sought to unravel the mysteries of their arduous journeys and gain greater insight into the status and ecology of Sandhill Cranes breeding in Russia.  Gary and Inga were interested in identifying the western limit of breeding by Sandhill Cranes in Russia, along with the status of Siberian Cranes along the western boundary of their previously identified breeding range.  Through support of the USGS and the Yakutian Government, they undertook an expedition in July 2009 to an area near the Laptev Sea in in the Ust – Yanskii region, where they conducted ground surveys while traveling by amphibious vehicle and boat.

Their work indicates that the breeding range of Sandhill Cranes now extends to near the Lena River Delta and Siberian Cranes occur in large numbers in areas where few or none were previously thought to breed.  ICF worked with the USGS and IBPC to prepare a proposal.  We were honored and pleased to receive a personal letter from the Minister of the Ministry of Nature Protection (MNP) of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia).  They have since completed documents that are being reviewed by the MNP and the Ust-Maya Administration to establish a new protected area in Ust – Yanskii region into the network of specially protected wildlife areas of the Sakha Republic.  The designation also protected the livelihoods of the indigenous herding and fishing communities.  This is undoubtedly a significant contribution to the conservation of both the Siberian and Sandhill Cranes.

Did you know that the Siberian Cranes breeding in Yakutia winter in southeast China? Learn about ICF’s work to safeguard the species’ flyway in the Amur-Heilong River and Yangtze River basins.