Japan Crane Workshop marks Ramsar COP5 anniversary

Japan Crane Workshop marks Ramsar COP5 anniversary

10 December 2003

Japanese National Crane Workshop and Symposium,
Kushiro, 14-16 November 2003

Simba Chan
Wild Bird Society of Japan
(Flyway Officer of the North East Asian Crane Site Network)

2003 is the 10th anniversary of the Ramsar COP5 Conference. Convened in Kushiro, in eastern Hokkaido of Japan, the COP5 was the first Ramsar Conference in the Asia-Pacific Region. The Kushiro Conference has triggered many wetland conservation activities in the Asia-Pacific region. One of these is the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ramsar COP5, the government of Kushiro City organized a series of activities at the Kushiro Tourism and International Relations Center (the same building where the Ramsar COP5 was convened). One of these is the workshop and symposium organized by the North East Asian Crane Site Network on the crane and stork conservation in Japan.

Kushiro is an important area to crane conservation. In the 1920s, the Red-crowned Crane, Grus japonensis, which was believed to be extinct in Japan because of rampant hunting and habitat destruction during the Meiji Restoration (late 19th century), was rediscovered in Kushiro. Due to official protection and support from local communities, number of cranes gradually increased from a few dozen to over 850 wild birds today (the total number of both captive and wild birds in Hokkaido exceeds 900 birds). More than one-third of the wild Red-crowned Cranes in the world are found in eastern Hokkaido.

Since its launch in 1997 the North East Asian Crane Site Network (NEACSN) has organized many activities to establish closer links amongst researchers and site workers from Russia, Mongolia, China, Korea (both North and South), and Japan. The headquarters of the coordination of the NEACSN is at the Wild Bird Society of Japan (WBSJ).

The Japan Crane Network (now known as the Japan Crane and Stork Network, or JCSN) was formed in 1996 by a group of researchers, site managers, institutes and organizations related to cranes in Japan. The JCSN holds annual meeting on national crane issues. Since the launch of the NEACSN there had been many interactions and cooperation between the NEACSN and the JCSN. There will be a much closer cooperation in the future, as shown by the joint discussion on the national implementation of the Action Plan 2001-2005 of the NEACSN, and the consultation of recommended national goals and actions for the 2006-2010 Action Plan were the most important topics of discussion at this workshop.

On 14 November, 12 crane specialists and site managers attended the national workshop. Reports were presented from various sites in Japan, and the NEACSN reported the international activities: the 9th Migratory Waterbird Conservation Committee Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, July 2003, and the NEACSN environment and ecotourism training course in Mongolia, August 2003. Implementation of the national portion of the NEACSN Action Plan (2001-2005) was another important topic of discussion at this workshop.

Summary of the reports:
Red-crowned Cranes are doing well in Hokkaido. The heavy snow in early 2003 caused delay in nesting but had no serious effects on the breeding success.
The numbers of wintering Hooded Cranes Grus monacha and White-naped Cranes Grus vipio at Izumi, Kyushu are also gradually increasing. However, the number of wintering Hooded Cranes at Yashiro, western Honshu, is declining. Only 13 cranes were recorded in November 2003. Until the late 1970s, over 100 Hooded Cranes wintered at Yashiro annually.
Izumi City announced the plan to hold an international symposium and workshop on crane conservation in late 2004.
WBSJ has so far purchased 8 sites of a total of 1,080 hectares in Hokkaido as protected areas for Red-crowned Cranes. WBSJ is also working on a trial project to create new wintering sites for Hooded Cranes and White-naped Cranes.

On 15 November, participants of the workshop visited various institutions on Red-crowned Crane conservation in Kushiro. At Tsuru-Ito Tancho Sanctuary, which is managed by the WBSJ, participants were shown and asked to comment on the new education program to the visitors.

On 16 November, the symposium 'The Future of Crane' was convened in Kushiro City. Mr. Yoshitaka Ito, Mayor of Kushiro City; Ms Masako Inoue, Chair of the JCSN; and Mr. Toshio Torii, Ministry of the Environment of Japan, gave opening and introduction speeches. Followed by the four presentations:
Status of Red-crowned Cranes in Hokkaido (Dr. Fumio Matsumoto, Akan International Crane Center)
Recovery of nesting grounds of Red-crowned Cranes (Mr. Osamu Harada, WBSJ)
Conservation of Hooded Cranes and White-naped Cranes (Mr. Yutaka Kanai, WBSJ)
Activities of the North East Asian Crane Site Network (Mr. Simba Chan, WBSJ)

There were good discussions on conservation of cranes in Japan at the symposium and good media coverage in Hokkaido.

National Workshop on Cranes

Visiting Akan International Crane Centre

Red-crowned Cranes in Kushiro

Introduction of new education programme

Symposium in Kushiro

-- text and photos courtesy of Simba Chan