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A record number of Oriental storks is registered in the Amur River basin

15 july 2021
The Oriental stork census organized in the Amur River basin with WWF support has been completed. It has shown a record increase in the Oriental stork numbers over the entire history of regular observations of this rare bird. The number of breeding pairs in the Russian part of the Amur basin is approaching 1000, and the total number of storks is estimated at about 5.5 thousand individuals.
The preliminary results of the annual count of breeding pairs of the Oriental stork, which is carried out with the support of WWF Russia in four regions of the Russian part of the Amur basin: in Amurskaya, Evreiskaya, Khabarovsky and Primorsky provinces, have been summed up. This year, experts have registered an unprecedented increase in protected species numbers.
“The steady growth of the stork population is the result of a combination of favorable weather conditions in the Amur basin over the past decade and thanks to WWF’s efforts to improve breeding sites and forage base for this rare bird”, comments Anna Serdyuk, Ph.D, senior coordinator on protected areas at WWF Russia Amur branch.

WWF together with partners out of public organizations, federal and regional protected areas carried out a huge amount of work including building artificial supports for nests in the areas with a lack of trees. The problem of storks building nests of birds on power transmission lines has been practically resolved. The largest power grid companies in the region are implementing long-term programs to ensure safe nesting for storks on network facilities. Anti-poaching work is being successfully carried out against illegal fishing in the stork habitats.

Anton Sasin / WWF Russia
“At the same time we understand that the unprecedented growth in stork number throws new challenges for us. For example, the number of storks injuried after collisions with wires is increasing. At present, we are building a rehabilitation center in Amurskaya province together with the Department for Wildlife Protection and the Biological and Tourist Center of Amurskaya province, with the support of Essity and Henkel Company, for treatment and rehabilitation of wounded storks in order to return them into the wild. It is necessary to continue our work on building artificial supports for nests in places with a lack of nesting trees, to ensure enough breeding space for the growing stork population. The impact from agricultural chemistry and agriculture in general needs to be studied as well, since the main stork habitats coincide with the largest agricultural areas in the region,” notes Anna Serdyuk.
The results of the survey show an increased number of inhabited nests with chicks in almost all areas of the stork habitat. The increase in the number of birds is especially remarkable in the south of the Zeya-Bureya plain in Amurskaya province. 402 inhabited nests were recorded here in 2021, compared with 264 in 2020. Thus, over the year the population has increased by more than 52%. The number of breeding pairs has significantly increased in three model areas - Amursky, Muravyevsky, and Berezovsky wildlife refuges. In Amursky wildlife refuge 57 nests were recorded (last year - 41), in Berezovsky - 34 (last year - 28), in Muravyevsky - 26 (last year - 20).
“In 2008-2009, when we started active work to improve the living conditions for storks there were 7 residential nests in Amursky wildlife refuge, 11 in Muravyevsky, and only one pair nested in Berezovsky, and even then not every year. And altogether on the whole Zeya-Bureya plain there were 50 nests recorded in 2004, and earlier, in 1998 - only 15”, - said Yury Gafarov, project coordinator on protected areas at WWF Russia Amur Branch.
The situation with stork numbers in the second “stork” site of Amurskaya province - the Arkhara Lowland, remained relatively stable compared to last year - 115 stork nests were examined here. However, the number of the species on this territory is obviously higher, since the intense flood did not allow to inspect the whole territory. The main factor limiting the growth of the stork population in the Arkhara Lowland was unexpectedly massive destruction of stork nests by bears. In 2020 predators destroyed 15% of stork nests, and traces of animals' attempts to climb into the nest were found on 18% of trees with nests.

In Evreiskaya province 312 nests of the Oriental stork were recorded this year.

In Khabarovsky province, a stable growth in the population of a rare species continues in the recently created Sheremetyevsky Nature Park: this year there were 40 residential stork nests here, which gives this territory the status of a place with one of the highest stork breeding densities in the world. The census data are still being processed, but according to preliminary estimates, at least 110 pairs are breeding in the province.

In Primorsky province in the Khanka Lake Nature Reserve and adjacent territories 65 inhabited nests were counted this year. Specialists of the reserve record the increased number of fallen trees with nests due to strong winds. In total, about 160 nests were recorded in Primorsky province.

Thus, the number of breeding pairs of the Oriental stork in the Russian part of the Amur basin is approaching 1000, and the total number of birds living here is estimated at about 5.5 thousand, which is a record figure in the entire history of regular observations of this bird.

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