All stork nests saved from fire in Amurskaya Province
Several massive fires occurred in April in three wildlife refuges, Amursky, Berezovsky and Muravyovsky, key habitats for Oriental in Amurskaya Province. However, no nest of this rare bird was damaged.
“We had our doubts, while conducting fire preventing activities, whether this hard and huge work was worth doing. If such treatment was effective in case of a strong fire? – comments Yury Gafarov, director of AmurSEU. – This spring removed all our doubts. Fire prevention treatment is absolutely important, and if done properly, it surely saves the nest of the rare bird from fire.”
In spring 2016, during three weeks fires were raging on the territory of three wildlife refuges. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Provincial Directorate of Protected Areas, firemen and AmurSEU, in Muravyovsky Wildlife Refuge the fire was prevented from spreading to the key habitats of Oriental stork. However, due to strong winds, Beryozovsky and Amursky Wildlife Refuges were completely burned in a few hours. It caused serious concern of specialists about Oriental storks nesting and already laying eggs in these areas. In this connection, right after fires the experts were sent to inspect the territories suffered from the fire to estimate the damage to the rare bird species.
“We observed such situation for the first time, - said Anton Sasin, PhD, coordinator of the program on Oriental stork conservation. - Perfectly outlined, absolutely untouched by the fire circles around the nesting poles and trees, surrounded by completely burnt areas. Surveys have shown that the nests with fire prevention treatment were hundred-per-cent saved from the fire. The fire was not able to destroy and even partially damage the pole or a tree with the nest.”
It is obvious that without treatment, most of the old, often dead trees, which are preferred by storks to build their nests on, as well as artificial poles constructed of dry larch would have been destroyed or badly damaged by fire.
«Properly organized preventive measures, and what is more important, careful and responsible work of our partners, are delivering great results. It was highlighted at the meeting of the Working Group for the Oriental stork Conservation, which was held in Khabarovsk on April 21-22. Leading ornithologists discussed the factors that threaten the Red List bird and gave their recommendations which become the background for the plan of priority measures to preserve the Oriental stork population in the Russian Far East.' – comments Anna Barma, PhD, coordinator of protected areas at WWF-Russia Amur Branch.
Since 2009, fire prevention activity is carried out annually with WWF support in the southern wildlife refuges of Amurskaya Province. It includes a set of measures such as removing dry grass and fallen branches from the tree trunks, spraying fire-proof composition over the trunk. It is an annual activity due to the fact that agricultural fires and uncontrolled burning of vegetation destroy these territories almost every year. At the same time, these areas are the concentrated nesting sites of Oriental stork - one of the rarest birds in the world. Scientists believe that the main factor limiting the number of birds in the south of the Zeya-Bureya Plain is the lack of large trees suitable for building nests, burnt by seasonal fires. The second factor is the destruction of nests by fire.
The work conducted in the last years to improve Oriental stork habitat conditions including fire prevention treatment for trees and poles with nests, constructing artificial poles, has brought obvious results. Thus, the number of breeding pairs in Amursky Wildlife Refuge increased from 10 in 2004 to 26 in 2014. Muravyovsky Wildlife Refuge was prevented from a decline in the number of breeding pairs. Now, there are 8 residential bird nests in Beryozovsky Wildlife Refuge, although 5 years ago no storks were registered here.