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Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis)

Population Status

  • Second rarest crane species, after whooping crane (Swengel 1996a)
  • Estimated 2,800-3,300 individuals in wild but only 1,830 are mature individuals (BirdLife International 2016)
  • Wintering subpopulations (Swengel 1996a):
    • China 600-800; trend unknown
    • North Korea 300-600; trend increasing
    • South Korea 200-300; trend unknown
    • Japan (Hokkaido) 594; trend increasing
  • Population trend overall:decreasing
  • Population numbers lowest in Japan after World War II - 33 individuals (Archibald & Meine 1996)
  • In 1990s some 600 individuals in Japan (del Hoyo et al. 1996)
  • Population on Asian mainland declining (Johnsgard 2008)
  • Japanese population on northern island of Hokkaido increasing slowly since 1970s
    • Due to special protection of the few breeding areas used by cranes and winter feeding
  • In June 2008 a red-crowned crane sighted on Honshu, Japan, for the first time in 100 years (Hays 2009)

Conservation Status

(IUCN 2011, assessed 2009)

  • IUCN Status:
    • Endangered (2016 assessment) (BirdLife International 2016)
      • Population decreasing
  • CITES Status
    • Appendix I (UNEP 2019)
  • IUCN/SSC suggested conservation actions:
    • Expand area and number of wintering sites in Japan
    • Establish a protected area at boundary between Russia/China/North Korea
    • Establish protected area in estuaries of demilitarized zone (N/S Korea)
    • Establish protection on Sanjiang Plain of China
    • Stop reclamation of tidal flats along Yangcheng coast of China
    • Prevent poisoning from pesticides and poaching
    • Control fires
    • Establish conservation interest groups
  • Conservation efforts:
    • Khingansky Zapovednik, Amur River Basin, Russia (Andronov 2011)
      • Wetland of International Significance (RAMSAR Convention)
      • Key Crane Territory (RAMSAR Convention)
      • Ways to reduce careless fires being developed
      • Local support for cranes through environmental education, especially "Crane Day" festival
      • International efforts to coordinate migration studies
    • Red-crowned Crane Nature Park, Hokkaido dedicated in 1958 (Masatomi 1981)
      • Efforts began to popularize crane preservation
      • Wintering feeding areas established
      • Study of cranes encouraged
    • In 2009 biologists with Kyungpook National University in Korea successfully used artificial insemination to hatch chicks (Chosunilbo 2011)
  • A series of nature reserves in China helps protect crane flyways, including breeding areas for red-crowned cranes (Three White Cranes, Two Flyways, One World 2011):
  • Key protected areas at present (Bird Life International 2011):
    • Russia: Khingansky, Muraviovaka Park and Lake Khanka
    • China: Shalong, Xianghai, Shuangtai Hekou, Yellow River delta and Yancheng
    • Border area of Russia, China, Mongolia: Daursky Nature Reserve
    • North Korea: Mundok
    • Japan (Hokkaido): Kushiro, Akkeshi-Bekanbeushi and Kiritappu
      • By 2006 red-crowned cranes have increased from near 50 in 1970s to around 1,240 individuals in Japan (Johnsgard 2008)
      • Conservation efforts resulted in the species "return from near extinction" (Johnsgard 2008)

Threats to Survival

(IUCN 2011)

  •  Wetland degredation and destruction, especially:
    • Agriculture
    • Industrial and economic development, especially oilfield pollution
      • High adult mortality in wintering grounds due to heavy metal contamination
  • In China and Russia:
    • Spring fires
    • Dams (cause lower water levels in wetlands, giving predators access to nests)
  • In DMZ area of North/South Korea, change to autumn plowing reduces access to waste grain
  • Crowding at Japanese feeding stations increases threat of disease

So Beautiful, Yet So Few

Red crowned Crane

The loss of wetland habitat is the main threat to the Red-crowned Crane.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Bird Life International (2011)
Chosunilbo (2011)
Hays (2009)
del Hoyo et al. (1996)
IUCN (2011)
Johnsgard (2008)
Swengel (1996a)

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