Chat Archives
Chat on "Crane Migration" dated November 18, 2004

    Susan  Welcome to IWC chat on " Crane Migration" 18 Nov. 2004 
    Crane  Sorry for the delay. I am on. 
    Susan  Hi, Crane, are you Gopi? If so will you please give a brief intro? 
    Crane  Yes Gopi here. I am the India programme coordinator for the International Crane Foundation based in Wisconsin.
    Crane  The programme is called the Indian Cranes and Wetlands Working Group managed both by ICF and the Delhi-based Wildlife Protection Society of India. 
    Susan  What is the role of ICF in India? 
    Crane  The two acronyms therefore that may be used a lot in this chat are ICF (International Crane Foundation) and ICWWG. 
    Crane  ICF began work in India in the 1970s immediately after their founding in 1973. One of the co-founders was Ron Sauey who decided to study the Siberian Cranes about whom very little was known. 
    Susan  Welcome Sakittur! 
    Crane  Since then, either Ron or George Archibald, the other cofounder have visited India nearly every year since. 
    Susan  Welcome jyotsna, Shoot your questions 
    sakittur  Thankyou susan! 
    Crane  India is an important crane country because of the largest population of the resident Sarus Cranes, and the many thousands of Common and Demoiselle Cranes that migrate to the country in winter.Crane  We have also are host host to breeding Black-necked Cranes in Ladakh (numbering <50 birds) and we saw the last of the Siberian Cranes in 2001. 
    jyotsna  Hello everyone   
    Crane  So any questions on crane migration?
    jyotsna  Susan was telling me about your new project.. 
    jyotsna  It sounds very interesting.. 
    jyotsna  I'd love to know more 
    Crane  Jyotsna: which new project?
    jyotsna  Susan will explain 
    Susan  I think she means the "follow the plane" project. 
    Susan  Swati, where are you from? 
    Crane  You mean the project to restore the population of Siberian Cranes. 
    Crane  This has a very long history and I could go into it if you think it interesting.
    sakittur  hi I'm from Dehradun... 
    Susan  Hi gvkvjn 
    sakittur  yes it is interesting ... may be u can tell us in brief 
    Crane  ICF is one of the groups worldwide who has assisted to perfect the technique of using flying machines to restore extinct migratory pathways of cranes. 
    Susan  Please tell us about the Siberian Crane Project. Our chatroom is not v.sophisticated so pl. type three four lines at a time. 
    Crane  This has two important components. Having a captive population of cranes from whom chicks can be reared for release in the wild. And the other more adventurous one of teaching these chicks to follow an ultra-light or hang glider and teach them their migratory route from where wild populations are extinct
    Crane  The first experiment or rather project of restoring extint cranes is being carried out presently in the USA for the Whooping Cranes. An ultra-light is being used to restore the crane population that used to fly from central Wisconsin to Florida. 
    jyotsna  What is the benefit of re-routing their paths ?  
    Crane  This route is relatively short and it takes ultra-lights 60-90 days to do the whole route one way. The cranes fly back on their own once winter has passed. This year, the fourth group of birds have successfully been taken to Florida where they presently are. You can read the details on 
    Crane  Not re-routing. Restoring a route that used to exist but was rendered defunct because all birds in that route were hunted by humans. 

    unnithan  Hullo Susan, Commander Unnithan from Mumbai 
    Crane  A lot of care is taken to keep processes as natural as possible. For instance, when crane chicks are being raised, scientists and zoo biologists have to wear a crane costume that is accurately matching the species in consideration.
    sakittur  how exactly does the ICF plan to apply this technique to the siberian crane migration... 
    Susan  Hi Commander   
    Crane  This is very crucial to any restoration project because of an important behaviour that cranes have called imprinting. They adopt the first moving thing they see after hatching as their parents. Therefore it is important to ensure that they do not adopt humans as parents but something that is akin to cranes. This enables them to live as wild birds once they are left wild after teaching the migratory route one way. 
    unnithan  I am finding it difficlut to hold the format due to some problem and signing off. Bye.

    Crane  The Siberian Cranes that used to fly to India were one of three populations (each with its own seperate migratory pathway) and was called the Central Population. Their numbers were more than 150 in the early1970s when Ron did his seminal work, but dropped to 2 birds in 1998. The reason being their hunting while they were migrating over Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan before reaching India. 

    Crane  The last two birds were not seen in India in 2001 because their only wintering site Bharatpur Sanctuary was bone dry. They were seen flying in by Pakistani scientists, but did not reach Russia in time for summer. 
    Susan  I have seen a film called "Fly away chicks" on Geese migration using ultralight planes. The film must be at least 15 years old.

    I wonder if the geese have started using the routes taught to them ? 
    Crane  The film is called Fly Away Home and is based on the pilot Bill Leischman who also flew for the Whooping Crane programme when it was initiated. Bill was accompanied on his real-life adventures by another pilot Joseph Duff who presently leads the flying team for the ICF project. The geese they trained are completely normal migratory birds now and as far as I know were seen this year migrating as well. 
    sakittur  where do the other two populations of siberian cranes migrate to... 
    unnithan  I am back. Is there any record of sib cranes going as far south as pt calimere? 
    Crane  The Western Population breeds in far western Russia and migrates to the south of the Caspian Sea in northern Iran. There are only seven birds in this population. The Eastern Population breeds in far eastern Russia and Yakutia and winters in southern China. There are more than 3,500 birds in this population and provides the last hope for the species in the wild. 
    Crane  Getting back to restoing Sibes to India, ICF is presently working on a very elaborate programme that will ensure that hunting of cranes is stopped in all the countries they fly over as the first step. Alongside, they are trying out methods that will allow assisted migration using hang gliders. This will be more suitable for the route to India because of the length and the high Himalayas. 
    Crane  Hello Commander. No records of Sibes so far south as far as published information goes.

    We would of course be interested in new information if there is any. 
    Susan  Is Bharatpur the only place in India where Sib. Cranes used to come? 
    Crane  Also Pt Calimere would be an unlikely site for Sibes because it is brackish water and these birds are freshwater specialists. 
    unnithan  When you go to pt calimere, the locals ( loosely)show the cranes as sib cranes. That is why I asked. 
    Crane  In 1940s there were many areas in Uttar Pradesh where the Sibes used to go uncluding Rae Bareilly, Etawah and Mainpuri. But since then no records of Sibes has ever been known outside of Bharatpur.

    Crane  Commander, the mass awareness that has come about as a result of ICF's Sibe work in India has resulted in all birds being called as Siberian birds. And many of them are not. I am guessing that this is the reason and not actual Sibe sightings. 
    Crane  Which cranes have you seen in Pt Calimere? Common or Demoiselle?
    unnithan  During Dec 98, I visited Israel. There in the no mans land between Jordan, there were some storks or cranes. The shipping agent told me that they are sib cranes, and one evening i ventured to take a look. They were a km away and the dusk was falling. I could not make out, but in the bargain, narrowly escaped firing from the Jordenian sentry on the other side as he was taking aim on me. The Israel senty, who permitted me shouted and saved my life. From that day, i stopped identifying cranes at strategic points.falling. 
    Susan  What is the approx. population of Sarus cranes in India? 
    Crane  Good story! In Israel we have a colleague who maintains counts of Demoiselle Cranes and few common cranes. I figure he does not count cranes at strategic points either! 
    Crane  Sarus Crane populations in India are estimated to be in the range of 8,000-10,000 birds.  
    Susan  Sib. Cranes are vulnerable to sickness from insecticides as Sarus are? 
    unnithan  I was at Eilat in the Gulf of Jordan, a stone throw from Jordan. there are cranes, a good population. This area is restricted, and I took permission of an Israel sentry-- telling far away.. India.. friend etc. He was not fluent in English, but had heard of India. Never again.
    Crane  All cranes are. Most cranes are omnivorous meaning they eat both vegetation and other foods including crabs, snakes, frogs, mice etc. Since wetlands, their coveted habitat, is a sink for products from surrounding agricuture fields, cranes are forced to eat pesticides and many die each year. There are no records of Sibe deaths for a long time though. 
     Crane  Commander, I would love to obtain details of that visit from you at a seperate forum and maybe you could write your experience in our newsletter dedicated to cranes. We would love to feature this story. 
    unnithan  Thankx. Will do. 
    Susan  gvkvijn are you stll there? Any questions? 
    Crane  As regards Sibe sightings outside Bharatpur, the last two known were known from Rae Bareilly and both were shot by the late Dr. Salim Ali for scientific studies, who did not stop regretting the incident and writes about it passionately in his wutobiography. 
    Crane  Commander, my email is and I would like to keep in touch. Our website is

    and you are welcome to visit it to find out more about our work. 

    Crane  Did anyone on the chat list presently see the Sibes at Bharatpur anytime? 
    jyotsna  not me..
    Susan  Not me either 
    Crane  I saw the last two birds with their chick in 1998 and later just by themselves in 1999 and 2000. 
    unnithan  Susan, i used the call sign gvkvjn but there was some problem. So i changed the channel from cable and now running on MTNL. Forgot to notify you. Thanx folks, I am signing off. Bye.
    sakittur  how are things at bharatpur now... is the habitat suitable enough for the cranes to come .... i have not see them either 
    unnithan  Noted gopi @ Bye. 
    Crane  Bharatpur is now in the eye of a political storm for water with farmers disallowing water to be filled into the park. As a result it is dry presently and looks more like a dry grassland with plenty of cattle. If this

    situation persists, all the aquatic plants that the Sibes love to eat may die off even if the government does manage to get in water later. 
      Susan  I was in Bharatpur in October 2 week.Water is scarce- grass cutting is rampant- Migratory birds had not started arriving. " Business was low for rickshaw guides". 
    jyotsna  Bye commander 
    Susan  Thanks Comm
    Crane  Migratory water birds began arriving into India in late September and did not stay on in Bharatpur due to the water scarcity. 
    sakittur  bye commander 
     Crane  Hope to hear from you commander. 
     Susan  Swati, is WII Dehra Dun also involved inthe Crane project? 
    sakittur  i think gopi can answer that... 
    Crane  I was previously in WII working in a project on Sarus Cranes. One or two scientists are involved with ICF's work personally but there is no institutional commitment as of now.
    Crane  They do however participate in all the education and collaborative programmes we organise for crane conservation. 
     Susan  Thanks for a lot of stimulating info.

    The chat transcript will go up on our site and will be seen by over a lakh of monthly visitors.
    Crane  You are welcome and we could repeat this once some of out projects are completed in India. I enjoyed this. 
    Susan  Any suggestions for next month's topic-Jyotsna, Swati Gvkvjn? 
    sakittur  Thankyou, it was nice to chat to you all!!
    Crane  How about Butterfly conservation? I know a person from FRI in Dehradun who is a Butterfly whiz who may want to participate. 
    Susan  Thanks all of you and thanks for the time Gopi!
    Crane  Thank you too for organising this and signing off. 
    Susan  Yes why not? butterfly conservation sounds good 

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