Thursday, August 25, 2016


Rare Birds 'Died' In Russian Leader's Latest Wildlife Mishap

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at a crane as he sits in a motorized deltaplane on the Yamal Peninsula on September 5.
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at a crane as he sits in a motorized deltaplane on the Yamal Peninsula on September 5.
By Claire Bigg
Vladimir Putin's stunt with Siberian cranes this week was intended to display both his tough-guy image and his commitment toward saving endangered species.

But what it perhaps best highlighted was his curious knack for causing harm to rare animals.

Russian television on September 6 aired footage of the animal-loving president leading orphaned chick cranes in flight aboard an ultralight aircraft.

The exercise was meant to teach the critically endangered birds, who were raised in captivity, to follow the aircraft on their winter migration to Central Asia.

Putin's encounter with the chicks, however, was overshadowed by reports that two of them had died during preparations for his arrival.

A biology student at the nature reserve where the birds are raised, some 200 kilometers southeast of Moscow, revealed that one of the chicks had died after getting caught in the plane's propeller during training.

Maria Goncharova wrote on the Russian social-networking website vKontakte that several other birds were badly injured while being transported to the flight venue, on the Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic.

"One more broke a beak and tore off its claws on crooked netting. Another one died due to faulty transportation...many badly cut themselves," she wrote. "And all this to fly once with Pu."

Goncharova deleted the comment several hours after posting it.

Nature Stunts Gone Wrong

If her story is true, the deaths deal a severe blow to efforts to save the species from extinction. Russian biologists say there are fewer than 20 of this type of Siberian crane living in the wild.

Vladimir Putin flies with cranes as he takes part in a scientific experiment as part of the "Flight of Hope", which aims to preserve a rare species of cranes.
Vladimir Putin flies with cranes as he takes part in a scientific experiment as part of the "Flight of Hope", which aims to preserve a rare species of cranes.

Putin has participated in a number of purportedly scientific adventures over the years, many involving wild animals and all enjoying abundant media coverage.

He has been seen firing a crossbow at a whale to collect tissue samples, tagging polar bears, and bottle-feeding a baby moose.

But Putin's wildlife conservation efforts have often turned awry and sparked accusations of animal cruelty.

In 2008, he was filmed shooting a wild Siberian tigress with a tranquilizer gun before placing a satellite-tracking collar around her neck.

Although the tigress has occasionally returned to the media spotlight, animal activists claim it was a substitute and that the original cat died of a sedative overdose after Putin's security insisted on increasing the dose of the tranquilizer.

Environmentalists claim the tigress was borrowed from a zoo for the stunt.

Another of Putin's scientific feats, a recent diving expedition during which he brought up fragments of ancient Greek amphorae, was revealed to be a set-up.

Putin has also come under fire over the capture of Mongol, a snow leopard he visited in Siberia last year. Russian authorities say Mongol, who has since become the official mascot for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, was rescued from poachers.

But the World Wildlife Fund says the endangered leopard was in fact abducted from a nature reserve, flown 160 kilometers from its habitat, and held in captivity for a week before Putin's visit. The organization claims the animal sustained facial injuries during its capture.

After flying with the Siberian cranes, Putin told reporters his conservation efforts would go on. "We need to talk to specialists," he quipped. "But it shouldn't be just for fun, it should be useful."

Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to​


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Jack from: US
September 07, 2012 15:46
as is evident from RFE/RL hopeful reporting, the end of brutal Putin's "regime" is near. When cranes do not fly the collapse is imminent. RFE/RL is full of anticipation Russia will be governed by a coalition of Pussy Riot and Berezovsky.
In Response

by: Mamuka
September 07, 2012 17:35
Jack I'm surprised at you, didn't you know that the cranes were peaceful Wahhabists?

Also don't forget the endangered Kalina that Putin destroyed.

by: Bill H. from: Calif.
September 07, 2012 16:06
Putin is a egomaniac with no common sense and still acts as if he's running the KBG not a country.

he's an idiot personified.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 08, 2012 06:30
Aha, Bill, please send to Russia one of your own democratically elected geniuses - such as George W who was elected by you, Beavuses and Buttheads, to be your president TWICE in a row. And after this you don't find it too smart to call someone else an idiot :-))).
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
September 09, 2012 23:52
The jury is still out on GWB actually winning the election based on real votes.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
September 08, 2012 03:13
We all know that Putin does not care about people's opinions...he behaves rudely and aggressively but we also see a strong deterioration of his image..
After he threw girls in torture chambers he began destroy a rare bird population.
Тhere are reports that Putin during flight on his hang glider chopped a few poor cranes by propeller..
If he really wanted to train the birds, he should stick to his mug cranes beak on which react сranes....
so in order to satisfy his perverted ambition Putin made an irreparable blow to the nature..
He should be condemned of the world public for this barbaric act..

by: Mark Bonds from: Virginia, USA
September 08, 2012 11:28
What you DIDN'T say is whether injury to wildlife usually occurs when trying to teach the cranes to fly by scientists in non-publicized events. This is another example of anti-Putin propaganda...telling only part fo the story.

by: Jack from: US
September 09, 2012 01:32
Alpha crane

by: John Harduny from: Reston, VA, USA
September 09, 2012 14:56
Putin's publicity stunts are increasingly less impressive. And so are idiotic Western Cold War style attempts to degrade his public image.

by: glenn beltz from: los angeles, CA
September 09, 2012 15:19
he knows how to leave a trail of dead people or animals, that's the kgb way. what he cant do is build an economy that rewards honesty and steers russia way from resource extraction.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 10, 2012 05:46
You really think that Putin can not create a functional economic model for the country? I find this thought somewhat strange, given that the Russian economy is growing by some 4 - 4,5 % this year, for example (just as it did most of the years since Putin came to power), while economies of a number of NATO member states are either in a pretty bad shape (such as the US economy with its sluggish growth and US cities (Detroit, Stockton) going bankrupt one after the other) or are just shrinking (which this year certainly is the case of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and possibly also that of France and Germany (in the third quarter both have registered negative "growth")).
It seems to me, Beavus, that your "doubts" concerning Putin's ability to create a functional economic model is nothing other than the expression of your helpless wishful thinking, supported by conscious desinformation systematically spread by such outlets as RFE/RL.

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