Workshop to Develop a Long-term Strategy for Crane Conservation in the East Asian Flyway

Red-crowned Cranes spar on their winter feeding grounds in Hokkaido, Japan.

In October, I traveled to Beijing Forestry University for a three-day workshop jointly organized by the University’s Center for East Asian – Australasian Flyway Studies and the International Crane Foundation. Our principal goal was to draft a ten-year Crane Strategy and Action Plan for the East Asian Flyway, comprising Russia, Mongolia, China, North and South Korea and Japan focusing on four threatened crane species – Siberian, Red-crowned, White-naped and Hooded Cranes.

The meeting brought together representatives from these six countries, except for North Korea, for which the Hans Seidel Foundation presented an overview of crane conservation. Russian participants represented Dauria, Amur and Yakutia regions, as well as the Crane Working Group of Eurasia. China participants included representatives from 80 nature reserves important for cranes, as well as national organizations. Altogether, more than 150 participants attended the workshop.

International Crane Foundation Co-founder George Archibald shares a tribute to Jim Harris, former Senior Vice President of Asia.

The opening speeches included tributes to Jim Harris and recalled the 2012 Cranes and Agriculture Workshop, a long-term successful collaboration between the International Crane Foundation, Beijing Forestry University and other Chinese partners. I introduced the “Year of the East Asian Cranes 2020,” which we will use to leverage public, political, and financial support for crane and wetland conservation.

This workshop and the long-term strategy that participants will develop for the East Asian Flyway will provide the launch and foundation for this important 2020 initiative. Mr. Petr Osipov, Director of the Amur branch of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia, discussed the already extensive program developed by WWF Russia for this year-long celebration. Representatives of other Flyway countries identified potential activities and coordinators for this initiative.

International Crane Foundation China Program staff celebrates the launch of the Year of the East Asian Crane 2020!

The workshop held two panel discussions. One was on sector participation and cooperation and introduced representatives from the corporate, foundation, national and international non-governmental sectors, who described tangible examples and opportunities for support of migratory waterbird conservation in East Asia, including cranes. The second panel discussion addressed crane monitoring and tracking studies in East Asia, which emphasized increased coordination, cooperation and information sharing, as well as the safety of birds using tracking devices and trade-offs between the diminishing new information acquired by tracking more cranes and the risks of crane capture and tagging. Priorities for future tracking studies were identified.

Representatives then gave presentations on crane conservation status, actions and challenges for each of the six Flyway countries, followed by updates on the work of the International Red-crowned Crane Network, the International White-naped and Hooded Crane Network and the Crane Working Group of Eurasia. Claire Mirande, the International Crane Foundation’s Director of Conservation Networking, reviewed the process and contents of the newly-published Crane Conservation Strategy developed by the IUCN Crane Specialist Group. Many of the workshop participants contributed to threat assessments and species reviews reflected in this work. The goal of this workshop was to build on the extensive work captured in the Crane Conservation Strategy and develop detailed action plans to guide implementation of conservation, research or monitoring needs identified. We aimed to engage stakeholders from nature reserves and partner organizations to capture their perspectives and foster buy-in and ownership of the plan.

Mr. Gu Xiaojie, from Hunan Forestry Bureau, gave an informative talk on the current status of crane and waterbird conservation in the province, focusing on the globally-important Dongting Lake where, following a Presidential visit, many restoration actions have been undertaken, including fishing bans, restoring artificial fishponds to wetlands and removing introduced tree cover. As a result, Siberian Crane numbers are increasing at the reserve. This experience is a preview of what may happen throughout the Yangtze River floodplain, beginning with a fishery ban in 2020.

A talk by Mr. Li Zhongxin focused on the role and importance of cranes in Chinese culture and opportunities to raise the profile of crane conservation by linking to cultural relevance.

Several nature reserves then shared their experiences on wetland management and waterbird conservation outlining their work with and priorities for cranes.

The bulk of the workshop (one and a half days) was devoted to developing long-term strategies and action plans for the four key threatened species. Using flyway maps, participants of the four groups identified threats and opportunities for improved crane conservation throughout the flyways. These were then presented back in plenary for additional comments and actions. A similar process was followed to develop goals and actions based on the identified threats and opportunities and incorporate feedback. The resulting draft strategies will be written up, checked for coherence and sent out to participants for further review.

Story submitted by Spike Millington, Vice President International – Asia. Click here to learn more about our work in East Asia.