It is hoped this project will lead to more open communication and collaboration between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) on the conservation of Red-crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) in both nations, and in particular the preservation of vital crane habitats in and near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the current wintering site of cranes that formerly wintered on the Anbyon Plain.
This project has its beginning through collaboration between Dr. Chong Jong Ryol of the Korean University, Tokyo, and Dr. Pak U Il of the State Academy of Sciences (SAS), Pyongyang. Now the International Crane Foundation (ICF), BirdLife International (BI), SAS and Pisan Cooperative Farm of the DPRK hope to collaborate to restore Red-crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) as winter visitors on the Anbyon Plain (DPRK). Efforts will be made to attract the wild cranes, using captive cranes. In exchange for farm equipment and training in organic farming techniques, the farmers have agreed to provide food for the cranes. Concurrent with the restoration program for cranes, a comprehensive study of the avifauna of the Anbyon Plainwill be undertaken, research we hope eventually leads to the restoration of riparian, grassland and forest habitats.
To restore the Red-crowned Cranes as a winter resident on the Anbyon Plain
- To strengthen farming practices and conservation education at Pisan Cooperative Farm to help the farmers and to assure availability of grain to feed cranes and consolidate a willingness to help the cranes.
- To use captive cranes to attract wild cranes to land at the Pisan Cooperative Farm.
- To feed and protect the wild cranes when they return to the Anbyon Plain.
- To study the cranes and monitor the avifauna of the Anbyon Plain.
- To use this international cooperative program as a stepping stone to the conservation of Red-crowned Cranes and their habitats in other regions of the Korean peninsula.
To all Koreans, the iconic and majestic Red-crowned Crane is an auspicious symbol of good luck, happiness, and long life. The logo of the DPRK state airline, Air Koryo, is a crane. Hundreds of cranes adorn the high walls that surround the mausoleum of Kim IL Sung. In both Korean states the Red-crowned Crane is strictly protected as a Natural Monument.
The Red-crowned Crane is endemic to northeast Asia. Primarily attributed to hunting and habitat loss during the past century, they are now endangered. There are two populations: a non-migratory group of about 1200 individuals in northern Japan, and a migratory group of about 1,500 on the Asian mainland.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was once a major wintering area for Red-crowned Cranes. They fed on large invertebrates in the tidal pools and mudflats of the west coast, and on gleanings in rice paddies in more inland areas. Prior to 1990, the former USSR provided DPRK with an ample supply of petroleum products to produce chemical fertilizers. Following the evolution of the USSR into several sovereign states, petroleum products had to be purchased from Russia, leaving the DPRK with insufficient amounts of fertilizer. The DPRK leader encouraged farmers to develop organic fertilizers, the use and proficiency of which is now coming back into practice. But competition between birds and farmers for precious farm lands, fields and food resources have helped to stress and endanger Korean crane populations.
To promote goodwill and economic progress amongst the Korean people, Hyundai Corporation from ROK funded construction of a large tourism center at Mount Kumgang in DPRK just north of the eastern portion of the DMZ. Hundreds of tourists from ROK visit Mt. Kumgang daily to the economic benefit on DPRK. Other corporations from ROK built a complex of factories in DPRK just north of the western portion of the DMZ. Using ROK capital and DPRK labor, commerce flourishes to the benefit of both states. Now planners are hoping to develop land in the DMZ and the CCZ. One option proposes turning the most important wintering site for cranes, the Chorwon Basin, into Reunification City!
These ominous threats to the welfare of cranes and other wildlife together with their habitats in the DMZ and ROK influenced the International Crane Foundation and BirdLife International to initiate communication with colleagues in DPRK. Dr. George Archibald, ICF co-founder and DMZ Forum board member, visited DPRK March 25 – April 8, 2008, to meet with the nation’s leading ornithologist and conservationist, Dr. Pak U Il, and his colleagues at the Biodiversity and Eco-Engineering Center of the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang. Dr. Archibald was accompanied by Dr. William Duckworth, a British ornithologist and conservationist, who had worked in DPRK on a conservation program for several years. The joint team then traveled to the east coast to meet with leaders of the agriculture community at the most important former wintering area for Red-crowned Cranes in DPRK, the Anbyon Plain, near the port city of Wonsan just north of Mt. Kumgang and the DMZ. March 28-30 they visited the Anbyon Plain and met with the Manager of Pisan Cooperative Farm, Mrs. Kim Yon Sim, the Chairman of the Anbyon County People’s committee, Mrs. Kang Yong Ok, and several other leaders.
This project has been approved by the Government of DPRK perhaps because organic farming and the conservation of Red-crowned Cranes were already priorities of the government. The migration of cranes between the Anbyon Plain in DPRK and the Chorwon Basin along the DMZ in ROK provides an opportunity for information exchange between researchers and conservationists in the two states. Helping the cranes is becoming a venue for scientific exchange between the two Korean states. This cooperation promotes goodwill in one of the most politically sensitive and potentially dangerous spots on earth. Helping the cranes can be to the widespread benefit of humans and ecosystems.
- Collar NJ, Birdlife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International red data book. Cambridge, U.K: BirdLife International.
- Ireson, Randall, 2006. Agriculture Development in North Korea: From Fertilizer to Farming Systems. Publication of the American Friends Service Committee.
- Ireson, Randall. 2007. The Knowledge Sharing Experience in Agriculture. Presented at the Conference, Ten Prospects for International Cooperation in Knowledge Sharing in Service of Economic Development in DPRK. Korea Institute for International Policy, Seoul.
- Meine CD, Archibald GW. 1996. The cranes: status survey and conservation action plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.
- Higuchi, Hiroyoshi, Kiyoaki Ozaki, Go Fujita, Jason Minton, Mutsuyuki Ueta, Masaki Soma, Nagahisa Mita. “Satellite Tracking of White-naped Crane Migration and the Importance of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.” Conservation Biology, Volume 10, No. 3: June 1996, 806-812.
Dr. George Archibald
International Crane Foundation (ICF)
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The DMZ Forum, Inc.
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