In Siberia, these magnificent birds have been sacred to the shamans- they aspire to an after life as Siberian cranes as they represent femininity and seasonal balance. Today, among the Asian birds, these cranes numbers are dwindling to a few thousand (3200 and falling). Hunting has been rampant through history but today these beauties are the most critically endangered specieS in the world.
The Siberian crane occurs in three distinct populations, the largest of which is the eastern population that breeds in the northeast of Siberia and migrates 3,100 miles to the Yangtze River in China for winter. The central population breeds in western Siberia and undertakes a 3,700 mile migration for winter in Rajasthan in India, mainly at Keoladeo National Park. The western population, which according to recent estimates contains just nine birds, migrates just as far as Iran at one site on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea and breeds in the northwest of Russia, although the precise location is unknown. Siberian crane is legally protected in all the countries in which it occurs and is protected from international trade. Conservation of this species began in the 1970s, and a number of protected areas have been established at migratory stopovers in Russia, China, Pakistan and India. Educational programmes have been carried out in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Three captive-breeding facilities have been set up and a number of releases have been made, particularly to augment the central population. Research into the species is ongoing and current efforts are attempting to establish an International Siberian Crane Recovery Team and a Recovery Plan for the species.