Protection of Red-Crowned Crane

CNC report from Northeast China
Added On July 30, 2013

KEYWORDS:Crane | Wild Animal Protection

Red-crowned cranes have been the symbol of longevity in China since ancient times.

But now there are less than 1,000 red-crowned cranes living in the country, accounting for half of the world's total population of the rare species.

To protect the endangered species, the world's largest artificial breeding center for red-crowned crane in northeast China has been increasing its population through various ways, mainly artificial breeding.

[STANDUP](ENGLISH) MA DI, CNC correspondent
"This is Zhalong State Nature Reserve in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, the world's largest artificial breeding center for red-crowned cranes. Many tourists from home and abroad came here for the first time and they all seize this opportunity to take photos due to such close contact with the cranes."

[SOUNDBITE](ENGLISH) PATRICK, Tourist from Belgium
"It's amazing. It's my first time that I see. I'm really surprised to see it here. And also the birds come very close to people. That's very nice. I like it too much. Never seen before, I think Europe in my country, there are no cranes."

"Red-crowned cranes represent longevity. They are the symbol of luck. It's not easy to create such good natural environment to breed wild red-crowned cranes."

Red-crowned crane is a unique crane species in East Asia, well-known for its "three lengths" - long beak, long neck and long legs.

When it stands upright, it's more than one meter tall.

Due to its snow-white feather and elegant posture, red-crowned cranes are loved by East Asian people who consider them as a symbol of luck, fidelity and longevity.

Despite its good meaning, red-crowned crane is an endangered species in China.

To protect the "fairy crane" from dying out, Zhalong State Nature Reserve has been artificially breeding the species from the late 1970s.

And the center has now artificially bred over 800 red-crowned cranes.

[STAND UP](ENGLISH) MA DI, CNC correspondent
"This breeding center not only uses various measures to ensure the survival of this species, but also carries out wilderness training program for cranes which were born here, training them to endure the wilderness."

Since 1976, the reserve has used a wilderness training program to train artificially-bred cranes to better adapt to the wild.

Under such system, the health conditions of these artificially-bred cranes in the reserve have been found to be as good as those living in the wild.

By the end of 2012, the center had released over 200 cranes into the wild.

Meanwhile, to prevent inbreeding and reduce genetic degeneration, the center has begun to carry out bird banding and pedigree management since 2002.

[SOUNDBITE](CHINESE) GAO ZHONGYAN, Zhalong Nature Reserve crane breeding center
"Every bird has a leg ring so we can track its migration. The ring contains information of its parents, so that when they enter mating seasons, we can arrange in advance to avoid inbreeding."

Gao said the pedigree and banding management aims to keep sustainable growth of wild red-crowned crane population.

Although these elegant cranes have been under protection for over 30 years, they are still threatened by human activities such as over-fishing and the destruction of wetlands.

[SOUNDBITE](CHINESE)WANG WENFENG, Vice Director, Zhalong Nature Reserve Management Bureau
"Red-crowned cranes mainly breed in large wetlands and they prefer to nest in marshes with relatively deep water. It has relatively high demand for ecological environment. Each nest needs to occupy one or two square kilometers. Red-crowned cranes need a complete reed swamp wetland ecosystem without human disturbance."

To protect cranes' habitat, Zhanglong state nature reserve has made efforts to maintain ecological integrity of its wetland.

Thanks to these protection efforts, the population of red-crowned cranes in Heilongjiang province has increased during the past 12 years.

According to provincial forestry department, the total number of red-crowned cranes in the province increased from 500 in 2000 to 700, which accounts for a quarter of the total population of the world's red-crowned cranes.

Now the world's largest breeding center for red-crowned cranes has also begun to cooperate with other countries, including Japan and Russia, to engage in protection of the rare species.

Sima said he had sent invitations to Wang Lin a week ago, asking him to come to Beijing to undergo a rigid scientific evaluation.

He will give 1.6 million dollars to those who can prove they have supernatural powers.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) SIMA NAN, Independent scholar and commentator: (Telephone interview)
"Qigong is a Chinese traditional culture and healing exercise. Practicing qigong is to improve one's health condition in a relaxed mental state. We don't oppose doing qigong; rather, we oppose frauds in the name of qigong. Some charlatans use tricks and build social networks for them. The worship of qigong masters derives from superstition and corruption. It has huge bad impacts."

Sima says corrupt officials would superstitiously ask for blessings from masters, and masters need officials' protection to practice their chicanery.

There were also reports that Wang would move a lucky stone to the office of Liu Zhijun, former Chinese Minister of Railways, to ensure that he could permanently remain in his position.

Liu was convicted and handed a death sentence with reprieve earlier this month.