MBZ Species Conservation Fund support education program in Central Asia

Based on issues with Siberian Cranes nesting in Russian Federation and Siberian, Demoiselle and Eurasian Cranes migrating through Russia and Central Asian countries, the International Crane Foundation (ICF) is administering the grant provided by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (MBZ SCF) to the governmental and non-governmental organizations in these countries as well as for coordination and administration of the projects.

Five countries (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan) involved in the project implementation are located along Siberian Crane Central Flyway.

Siberian Cranes are highly wetland dependent. The shallow water in which they dig in the mud for plants and animals, also provide habitat for a plethora of other aquatic species including shorebirds, ducks, geese, swans, storks, herons, spoonbills. 

The wetlands used by the Siberian Crane have global significance for biodiversity according to both the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Along with Siberian Crane, the other crane species as well as other waterbirds including critical endangered Lesser White-fronted Goose used wetlands during season migrations.

Critical wetlands are now legally protected in these 5 countries. Every of these countries nominated key wetlands to Western/Central Asian Site Network for Siberian Cranes and Other Waterbirds (WCASN) established under the Convention of Migratory Species. Naurzum Lake System in the north-west ofKazakhstanhas recently been designated as a World Heritage Site.

Protection of the complex of wetlands along the Central Flyway is critical to support all stages of the life cycle of the Siberian Crane. This is especially important inCentral Asiadue to trends of drought and climate change.

The primary objective of the project is to promote widespread public education, especially to hunters, inRussia,Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan Afghanistan, andPakistanalong the Siberian Crane Central Flyway which goes fromRussiatoIndia. The last birds were seen inIndiain winter 2001/2002. However, it is possible that some cranes survive as regular sightings inKazakhstanand occasional records inUzbekistanwere reported.

Project implementation can be estimated as successful.

Meetings with hunters, game keepers, local people, regional and local administration, inspectors of regional and local departments, representatives of non-governmental nature conservation organizations, mentors and students were held at key areas which have international importance for Siberian, Eurasian and Demoiselle Cranes and other waterbirds during breeding, migrating and wintering.

Meetings helped to explain the status and threats to the Siberian Crane; to show international importance of key sites as Ramsar territories and WCASN sites used by Siberian Crane and other waterbirds; to promote change in the behavior of hunters, guard borders, and local people; and to involve them in crane and wetland conservation.

Presentations at the meetings as well as education and information materials which were distributed during the meeting and additional though regional and local Game and Fish Societies (brochures, posters, calendars, guidelines on crane captive breeding (Pakistan) enabled hunter to correctly identify the Siberian Crane and distinguish it from other crane species and other birds (egrets, swans, storks).  This should reduce death rate due to mis-identification. 

Improved understanding about the Siberian Cranes and its habitats inspired more hunters to understand and care about the plight of the Siberian Crane and to make choices to help protect the species and its ecosystems. Even during the meeting project coordinators obtained important information about Siberian Crane sightings as well as about Eurasian Crane congregations during migration. The last one is also very important as monitoring for Eurasian and Demoiselle Crane congregations 1) allows reducing conflict between farmers and cranes, and 2) discover wild an reintroduced Siberian Cranes in flocks of Eurasian Cranes.

InPakistanandKazakhstanside boards with pictures, logos and slogans regarding crane and wetlands conservation were set up at key wetlands used by cranes and other waterbirds during migration. Their placement along well traveled roadsides increased their visibility.  Excellent photos and focused messages will caught people’s attention and direct people on where they can visit to get additional information. Boards raised profile of network sites which already received recognition for national and internationalconservation importance or will be designated in future.

 MBZ Spicies Conservation Fund education project in Central Asia

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