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A New National Oriental Stork Conservation Strategy (2030) adopted in Russia

13 december 2021
On December 8, 2021, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia, Alexander Kozlov, signed a decree adopting the Strategy for the Oriental stork conservation in Russia. The document is based on data of the Oriental stork census on the entire range carried out in 2018-2019 in the Amur river basin by specialists of the Russian Working Group on the Oriental Stork with the support of WWF Russia

The Strategy was elaborated by the efforts of ornithologists from FGBU Zapovednoye Priamurye, the Bastak Nature Reserve, specialists of WWF Russia Amur branch, NGO Amur Socio-Ecological Union, scientists from the Biological and Soil Institute, the Pacific Institute of Geography and the Institute of Water and Environmental Problems of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, employees of the Information and Analytical Center for Protected Areas (Roszapovedcenter) of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia.

According to Olga Krever, deputy director of the Information and Analytical Center for Protected Areas (Roszapovedcenter): “The elaboration and adoption of individual strategies and action plans is prescribed under the Strategy for Protection of Rare and Endangered Species of Animals, Plants, and Mushrooms for the period up to 2030, approved by the decree of the government of the Russian Federation in 2014. Within the framework of the national project “Ecology”, such documents have already been approved for the bison and saiga, the strategy for the snow leopard conservation has been updated as well. The goals for the Oriental stork conservation Strategy by 2030 are the following: the population number in Russia is stable-high and amounts to at least 1000 breeding pairs; the area of wetland PAs suitable for storks increased by 2,500 km² (+ 15%) and reached 20,000 km²; the network of protected areas preserves at least 50% of Oriental stork nests.”
The Oriental stork - the rarest bird in the Amur river basin
Anna Serdyuk / WWF Russia

In 2000, two largest international environmental organizations: IUCN (IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature) and WWF-Russia held an international meeting “Oriental stork and the conservation of wetlands in the Amur river basin”. It resulted in elaboration of the first national Strategy for this rare species conservation. Many of the recommendations of this document were implemented: more than 800 thousand hectares of stork habitats ​​ were taken under protection, artificial supports for nests were installed, fire-prevention treatment for trees with nests was introduced, and mass public awareness campaigns were organized.

Comments Vladimir Andronov, Ph.D., director of FGBU Zapovednoye Priamurye, chairman of the Board of directors of nature reserves and national parks of the southern Far East: “I dedicated all my life to the study and conservation of cranes and storks, to the development of a network of protected areas in their habitats. Far Eastern nature reserves “Khingansky”, “Khankaisky”, “Bolonsky”, “Bastak” have made a huge contribution to the restoration of the population of rare birds. Together with provincial wildlife refuges, almost half of all Oriental stork nests are under protection. Moreover, we achieved a unique population density in the Amursky Wildlife Refuge on the Zeya-Bureya Plain and in the Sheremetyevskie Lakes Natural Park in Khabarovsky province.”
Stork Nest Keepers
WWF Russia
The Programe “Stork Nest Keepers” initiated by WWF-Russia in 2004, has played a significant role in the rare species restoration. It united thousands of local people. Annually in September-November, 150-165 trees and artificial supports with nests are protected and saved from seasonal grass fires. Following the example of Honghe Nature Reserve in China, more than 100 nesting platforms on tripods have been installed in sparsely wooded areas within the stork range in the Russian part of the Amur basin, half of which have already been inhabited by birds.

Over the past decade, storks prefer to build nests on power transmission poles. This leads to electricity shortage and to the death of birds. Therefore, in 2013, WWF Russia signed an agreement with the Federal Grid Company, which by 2018 had installed 4300 special protection devices (more than 7300 are included in plans) scaring birds from sitting and nesting in dangerous places. Moreover, about 1000 special platforms have been installed in places that are safe both for wires and storks, 19 of them are already inhabited by storks. Within the framework of the joint program “A Home for a Stork”, video cameras were fixed on several nests on power transmission lines, allowing to monitor the behavior of birds online. This made it possible not only to obtain a huge amount of new scientific data, but also to raise awareness about the protection of storks and improve the image of the Federal Grid Company. 

To help storks trust people, WWF Russia and partners all these years have been actively involved in environmental education activity. The public campaigns were organized almost every year: 2004 - “Stork over the Amur”; 2005 – “Birds of the Amur”; 2006 – “Amur Ambassadors”; 2007 – “Blue Ribbon”; 2008 - “Year of Ramsar Sites”; 2009 – “Green Shield of the Black Dragon”; 2010 – “Days of Amur”; 2013 – “Green Wave"; 2017 – “Sacred necklace of the Amur”; 2018 – “The Year for the Oriental stork”; 2021 – “The Year for Wetlands”. Hundreds of thousands of people living in the Amur basin were involved in these campaigns that ensured the support of the public and government.
The Oriental stork - the rarest bird in the Amur river basin
Alexander Khitrov / WWF Russia
Comments Yury Darman, Ph.D., Honored Ecologist of Russia: “With a sense of accomplishment, I can say that all the goals that we set at the end of the last century have been achieved. The number of storks has doubled, and thanks to the installation of tripods for nests and the implementation of recommendations for the protection of birds on power lines created real conditions for stable existence of the population. I’d like to highlight the great contribution of Anton Sasin, the main stork expert in Amurskaya province. I have high hopes for Anna Serdyuk, who took over from me the post of chairman of the Russian Working Group on the Oriental stork. As the senior coordinator of protected areas projects at WWF-Russia Amur branch, she has every opportunity to coordinate the work of Far Eastern specialists to successfully implement the new Strategy.”

Birds are responding to human care by the growth of population numbers. In 2018, at least 727 inhabited Oriental stork nests were registered in Russia (775-885 pairs according to expert assessment) - twice as many as during the last survey in 1999 (380-430 pairs). According to Birdlife International, the world population of the Oriental stork at the end of the 20th century was estimated at 2.5 thousand adult birds. In 2018, it reached 6 thousand birds (including chicks), with 4.5-4.7 thousand of the Russian population.

Dynamics of the Oriental stork population
WWF Russia
Anna Serdyuk, Ph.D., senior coordinator of protected areas projects at WWF-Russia Amur branch shared her plans for the future: “The adoption of the Strategy for Conservation of the Oriental stork in Russia is a very important step for further ensuring the well-being of this species. In the coming years, we will focus on conserving key stork habitats: creating new protected areas that will protect breeding sites. These are the Alim, Borovaya Pad, Troitsky wildlife refuges in Amurskaya province, Dzhavarga WR in Evreiskaya province, Tungusky and Khalkhadyan WR in Khabarovsky province, and buffer zone of Zabelovsky cluster of the Bastak Nature Reserve. Moreover, it is necessary to continue work to increase the breeding capacity of the lands and preserve the existing nests, to achieve the introduction of best practices in installing bird protection devices and nesting platforms on power transmission lines in Khabarovsky and Primorsky provinces. We launch projects aimed at the development and implementation of environmental measures for adaptation to floods, a comprehensive assessment of the impact of agricultural activities, fires, land reclamation on freshwater ecosystems and on the Oriental stork. It is important to ensure regular international cooperation between our specialists and ornithologists from other countries within the flyway.”
The Oriental stork - the rarest bird in the Amur river basin
Anton Sasin / AmurSEU / WWF Russia

An important component of WWF work was wide dissemination of information about the Oriental stork. A series of scientific articles, 3 collections of writings, one monograph and 5 brochures have been published. Over 20 years, 4 international conferences have been held (Amur 2000; Amur 2011; Amursk, 2004; Blagoveshchensk, 2018). Since 1998, the database of Oriental stork nests has been created basing of nest passports filled in accordance with a single standard and annually updated. All accumulated information is available on WWF Russia web portal Amurinfocenter (https://amurinfocenter.org). 

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