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The Indian Cranes and Wetlands Working Group...

In 2002, the last two Siberian cranes of the central flock failed to return to India. Their winter home, Keoladeo National Park, reeled under a drought and there was no water to house the birds. They were not reported from anywhere else in the country. Two more winters passed, and the birds still did not show up. It is now suspected that they are extinct.

Between 1998 and 2002, research conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India showed that Etawah and Mainpuri districts in Uttar Pradesh have the highest density of Sarus cranes anywhere in the world. Thanks to an ancient system of land use and humankind that still held wildlife in high esteem, wetlands in the area teemed with birds, especially the majestic cranes. Field research of over two years revealed a fine balance between wetland health and development of the landscape for human use. This area also had the largest known population of the near-threatened black-necked storks. A multi-million project devised for agricultural development in the area was discovered. The information from the years of research, and proactive collaborations helped convince courts that the area is worth conserving. At least for now, the cranes and the wetlands remain largely untouched.

In late 2001, conservationists and scientists from all over India met in Bharatpur to revitalize the defunct Indian Working Group on Cranes. After much deliberation, Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of the Wisconsin-based International Crane Foundation, suggested that the new Group be formed under the leadership of Gopi Sundar, then a researcher with the WII. Also, he suggested that the Group be based out of the Delhi-based Wildlife Protection Society of India. The decisions were unanimously agreed upon and the new Group was renamed the Indian Cranes and Wetlands Working Group (ICWWG).

ICWWG will work to improve understanding, cooperation and conservation of cranes, wetlands and the various aspects that surround wetlands, to ensure their long-term conservation. The Group also hopes to collaborate with ICF’s south and south-east Asia programmes to ensure wholesome participation and conservation of the region’s cranes and wetland resources.

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