A CERS project since 1988

Traditionally Chinese considered the crane a sign of longevity, happiness and a stable relationship. Tibetans also hold the crane in revere, as it was this bird that held the clue to the identity of the infant 7th Dalai Lama, the reincarnation of the 6th. There are 15 species of cranes in the world and China supports 8 of them, with the Black-necked Crane and the Red-Crown Crane among the most rare and endangered.

In 1988, while exploring the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau in Marqu of Gansu, How Man Wong and Dr. Bill Bleisch first came upon a pair of Black-necked Cranes (BNC) at a distance. Their high pitch calls were not only a sound of alarm given whenever their most threatening predators, humans, were near, but also represented the state of affairs of this stately bird. A census taken during that period listed the bird as highly endangered, with less than 800 remaining in the wild, most of them in China.



Liu Qiang
Napahai, Yunnan - 27 April 2009

Translated by Wong How Man

Affixing equipment on captured craneMigrating birds arrive in the autumn and leave in spring. Where do they come from? Where are they heading to? Would they be coming again next year? Throughout time, this has been a riddle for people with an interest in science or just the romance of nature. Legend has it that 2,000 years ago, a palace consort in the kingdom of Wu tied a red string onto the leg of the swallow to find out whether the same bird would return the following year to its nest above her window.

Napahai is a wetland paradise in Shangri-la of southwest China, bordering the Tibetan plateau. The pristine state of this ecosystem provides an ideal wintering home for the Black-necked Cranes. Every year as weather on the high plateau turns bitterly cold, over 300 Black-necked Cranes migrate from the north to here. As the breeze of spring kisses the new greening grass, farmers begin tilling the soil and sowing barley seeds. These spiritual birds of the plateau, as if hearing a calling from the North, begin their mass migration. Seeing the silhouette of them flying further and further away, we cannot help but ask where they are heading.