After a million years of existence Siberian Cranes have declined dramatically in the last three decades as expanding human population exerts relentless demands on wetland habitat and hunting pressures increase. Today, two breeding populations of Siberian Cranes remain in Tundras of Eastern and Western Siberia. The Yakutian flock of 225 birds migrates to China. The smaller of river group winters in Iran or India. In 1982-83, 36 of these birds successfully completed the torturous 4,500 KM migration to the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, India. An intermediate 2—3 week stopover is made at lake Abi-i-Estada in Afghanistan before the birds fly over Pakistan on their way South.
Little is known about the twice-yearly passage of Siberian Cranes through this country. It is likely that Siberian Cranes cross the Punjab or more sparsely populated areas of Baluchistan’s Zhob District.
Siberian Cranes are striking birds. Bright yellow eyes and bare red skin on the forehead contrast with black primary feathers in an otherwise white appearance. Wingspan exceeds 7 feet. Siberian Cranes mate for life and have the breeding territories as large as 25 square KM. Usually only one of their two chicks of the year survives in the wild. This low reproduction rate accounts for the great difficulty in recovering from precipitous population losses. These birds are excellent barometers of the status of wetland habitat essential for their survival along their international migratory routes. An indicator species, their plight has brought renewed concern in Asia for the fate of the Continent’s wetland and water animals. It has also drawn attention of conservationists and wildlife officials in Pakistan to study migration of Siberian Crane through the country to reduce threats, if any, to the birds throughout its likely migration routes through Pakistan. Considerable world-wide attention is focussed on the Siberian Crane. Captive breeding programmes are under way in the Soviet Union, West Germany, and at the International Crane Foundation in the United States. Active attempts are being made to research and protect the crucial wintering and breeding grounds. Siberian Crane migration may be researched in greater depth in the near future.
Pakistan Post Office is issuing a special postage stamp on Siberian Crane of Rs. 3.00 value on September 8, 1983 in order to increase public awareness of the plight of this rare and beautiful bird which is facing the threat of extinction. It is a part of series on Wildlife stamps being issued by Pakistan Post Office since 1975 to focus world attention. on preservation of Wildlife. The painting for the stamp was provided by the world renowned, artist and naturalist, Sir Peter Scott, Chairman of the Council of the World Wildlife Fund International. It is based on a photograph of a Siberian Crane family in flight, by Dr. George Archibald.