Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on November 4, 2008
The Japanese tancho crane is in a precarious position. And it’s not impending extinction – at least not in the way you normally think. While numbers are low (an estimated 1,200 tanchos exist in its natural marshland habitat of Hokkaido in Japan, with an additional 1,400 thought to live in Russia and China), the crane population is actually the highest it’s been in 100 years. Granted, it’s still one of the most endangered birds in the world, but when you consider that it was thought to be extinct until 10 birds were discovered in the 1920s, 2,600 is not bad at all.
The tancho crane, thought to have survived 1,000 years, is well represented in Japanese and Chinese culture. According to the Wiki, a pair of tanchos (known as red-crowned cranes in China) “were used in the design for the D series of the 1000 yen note.” It’s also featured in one of the official logos for Japan Airlines, as well as immortalized in ancient mythology.
But these have only helped keep the crane alive in people’s minds. If the species wants to thank anyone for its actual conservation, it should look no further than Japanese citizens, who recognized the problem and quickly addressed it by actively providing the animal with food. While this helped increase the population, it also had a taming effect on the species – not only making it people-friendly, but rendering it “almost completely dependent on humans” for its survival.
But that’s not even the biggest issue. What conservationalists are most concerned about is the crane’s marshland habitat. It’s shrunk by almost 30% in the past six decades — the result of massive developments and deforestation. As a result, the groundwater level has fallen, forcing the cranes to wander to nearby farms in search of food. This has become devastating to the crops and somewhat annoying the humans, who have lately been encouraged to lay off their human/crane mingling by the Japanese Environmental Ministry. “These days tancho even peck at the windows [of houses] as people have fed them without careful consideration,” a representative of the Kushiro Zoo is quoted as saying in Daily Yomiyuri. ” We shouldn’t treat wild animals like pets.”
What else needs to be done? The ministry is hoping to build more sanctuaries for the birds in which to implement more feeding fields for the bird, as well as improving the species’ natural habitat. “I’m looking forward to the day when the tancho’s habitat will broaden and they will be seen in Honshu, too, as they used to be,” says Kunihito Otonari, the Tsuruimura sanctuary’s chief ranger. (via Daily Yomiyuri)
When your mother told you not to feed the birds, she was probably thinking of the Japanese tancho crane.