The last remaining from the western population has arrived back in northern Iran for another winter.
The male crane, which is fondly known as Omid – Persian for 'Hope' – pitched down at the traditional wintering haunt of Fereydoon Kenar on 21 November, weeks later than his usual return at the end of October. He is the final remaining member of the western population of Siberian Cranes and spends his summers alone too, 5,000 km to the north along the Kunovat and Alymka Basins in Siberia.
Siberian Crane is now recognised as Critically Endangered worldwide. An eastern population of around 2,000 individuals still persists, breeding in north-eastern Siberia and wintering at Poyang Lake in the Lower Yangtze River Basin in China, but is severely threatened by development of the Three Gorges Dam (and other dams) along the Yangtze River.
However, the picture is even more bleak for the western population, which has been in decline for decades due to numerous factors at play, not least habitat loss and illegal hunting. Small numbers wintered in India until 2002, when they failed to return for the first time. As a result, by 2002, the remaining population of the world's western Siberian Cranes all wintered at Fereydoon Kenar, Iran. Despite the best efforts of conservationists, numbers continued to drop in the 2000s and, on 9 February 2009, the last remaining female died during a storm, leaving the ageing Omid as the sole survivor.