Female Siberian Crane to be added to dwindling western population


A female Siberian Crane has been transported from Belgium to Iran in an attempt to pair her up with 'Omid', the last remaining male from the western population.

The female, nicknamed 'Roya', has been raised in captivity in Zutendaal in the Limburg municipality. She departed for Tehran, the Iranian capital, on Tuesday 24 January [2022]. The aim is to link her up with Omid – the last wild bird from the western population. 

Roya the female Siberian Crane pictured in Belgium ahead of her relocation to Iran (Cracid Breeding And Conservation Centre).

The western population of Siberian Crane encompasses birds breeding in western Siberia and wintering in Iran and, formerly, India. A steady decline saw the population dwindle to four birds in 2002. The last known female died in a storm in February 2009 and reintroduction programmes in Russia failed to revive the population.

Since the death of the female, the final bird – Omid – has faced a lonely existence as the only living Siberian Crane from the western population, fruitlessly undertaking two colossal migration flights each year from Siberia to wetlands near Fereydunkenar along the southern shores of the Caspian Sea in Iran. Omid returned to his Iranian wintering grounds in late October 2022, but soon he and the western population will be no more.

A more easterly population, which breeds in north-east Siberia and winters almost exclusively at Poyang Lake in China, numbers roughly 3,000 birds. The species is classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN.

The transportation and planned release of Roya was described as "a big step for the survival of the species" by Geer Scheres of the Zutendaal Cracid Breeding And Conservation Centre. "The intention is to save part of an already very small population," he added.

"The idea is that he and his young will fly back to the Caspian Sea after reproducing. It must be a female that can lay eggs, she must have grown up with her own parents and she must not be used to people. That is why Roya has lived in isolation in the breeding centre until now."

Otherwise, Scheres has little concern about the attraction between the two. "Nature initiates a change in sex hormones in the spring that makes them very focused on reproduction. That will probably be love at first sight."