As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday 1 April 2016

Rare crane a boost to Taiwan's troubled wetlands

April 1, 2016

Taipei (AFP) - It has a Facebook page, two books and its own brand of rice. A Siberian crane that landed in Taiwan after getting lost on migration over a year ago even made international headlines when it was found wandering outside a train station.

But to conservationists, the crane is known as more than just a flash-in-the-pan media star. It is a godsend in their push for environmentally friendly farming as the island's birds suffer at the hands of development and pollution.

Taiwan is a mid-point stop on one of the world's eight major migratory routes and a wintering ground for numerous waterbirds from Siberia, China, Japan and Korea on their way further south.

However, in some areas of the island waterbird numbers are down due to the destruction of habitats.

There had never been any reported sightings of the rare white crane in Taiwan until December 2014 when the crane first made the wetlands after taking a wrong turn on its migratory route.

It hit the headlines again last winter when it was found wandering around a subway station in Taipei and was returned once more to Jinshan.

The Siberian crane is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list of critically endangered species with an estimated population of less than 4,000.

"I didn't expect the crane to stay. I thought it would fly away very soon," said farmer Huang Cheng-chun, whose rice and lotus field is nicknamed "little crane base" since the bird took residence there.

"When I work, the crane follows me around. It's like a friend to me. It's been helpful by eating a lot of apple snails (a pest) in the field."

As the crane helped rid them of pests, more farmers in the area agreed to go green to protect the bird's health, a boost for ecologists, who had until then been struggling to persuade them to stop using pesticides, rat poisons and herbicide.

Last year, pre-orders for "Jin Ho rice" -- which combines Jinshan and the Chinese word for crane "Ho" -- were sold out months before the harvest.

The eco-friendly farming area in Jinshan has now expanded from 3.5 to 10 hectares.
"It's inevitable that the bird will leave," said Liao Jen-hui, director of the Taiwan Ecological Engineering Development Foundation.

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