By Dr. George Archibald, ICF Co-founder & Senior Conservationist
On a wide plain beside the town of Binder in northeast Mongolia, the nation’s first Crane Festival was held on June 13, 2014. Our group and other guests sat comfortably under a large colorful tent with one side open to a field surrounded by other tents, exhibits, games, vehicles, and horses. A sequence of activities unfolded for six hours, including ethnic dancing, singing, dramas, and dances about cranes (right), along with the three big traditional crowd pleasers — wrestling, horse racing, and archery.
ICF Director, Heather Henson, assisted by ICF Whooping Crane Conservation Biologist, Dr. Elizabeth Smith, created an inspiring presentation about crane migrations in North America and Asia. Participation of the Governor of the Province, leaders from four counties, and the mayor of Bender, along with bus loads of children from nearby communities, proved that the festival was a great success. The Mayor announced that June 13 will always be Crane Day in Binder! It was the first time the Mongolians officially celebrated cranes, birds revered throughout the country.
Thousands of Demoiselle Cranes breed on grasslands across Mongolia, and perhaps as many as 1,000 threatened White-naped Cranes live on the wetlands in the northeast. ICF is helping our sister organization, the Wildlife Science and Conservation Center of Mongolia, in their comprehensive research on White-naped Cranes (read more about this research in the May 2014 issue of The ICF Bugle). Natural areas are now threatened by mining and industrialized farming. It’s time for the official conservation of the critical wetlands where the White-naped Cranes breed.
This June, I had the privilege of sharing some of the wonders of nature in Mongolia with 14 members of ICF, all of whom cherished the expedition under the Big Sky. If you are interested in joining the trip in 2015, please contact Jen Stewart at (608) 356-9462 ext. 119.