Fledglings of the Asiatic white crane, a species entered in the Rare species book, that were raised in a nursery will make their first migration south, escorted by a hang-glider, said Alexander Sorokin, head of the rare animal species laboratory of Russia's Natural Resources Ministry.
Such an experiment is being undertaken for the first time, as part of a programme to rehabilitate the disappearing population of the white crane.
In August of this year it is planned to ferry by helicopter six to seven crane fledglings aged about 70 days and raised by biologists in the Oka nature preserve in the Ryazan region, first to one of their nesting areas in western Siberia -- Salekhard. Then the birds will be taken to their "kith and kin" in the village of Kushevat, a distance of 200 kilometres south of Salekhard.
After a week's adapting and trial flights the birds will set off for a Flight of Hope to the south of the Tyumen region in western Siberia, to the temporary reserve Beloozersky, from where they will independently continue their way to a traditional wintering site -- in Iran. The migration will take about a month, during which the birds are to cover around 1,500 kilometres.
The flock will be led by Angelo D'Arrigo, an Italian hang-glider pilot and multiple world champion and record-holder. He authored the idea of using a hang-glider, rather than a motor-driven glider used previously, as a navigation training device for birds.
The point is that in a test flight inexperienced fledglings had to strain themselves to keep up with the whirring machine. A hang-glider hovers in the air, using the cranes' natural habit -- to use upwelling air currents to go upwards and then gently slide downwards, occasionally supporting themselves with rare wing sweeps.
The only remaining two nesting grounds of the Asiatic white crane are found in northern Yakutia and in the north of western Siberia. In Yakutia the population numbers about 3,000 birds and in Siberia there are no more than 20 couples remaining.
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