The Japanese crane is one of the rarest breeds of birds on the planet, with only 2600 individuals remaining. In the 1920’s, with their numbers decimated by hunting and habitat loss and on the brink of extinction, ten survivors were discovered living in the Kushiro wetlands in Hokkaido. Part of the marsh was then designated a protected sanctuary for the birds. In 1952, when Hokkaido was struck by a wave of blizzards and severe cold, local farmers began feeding the cranes corn and buckwheat to help them survive. The farmers continued feeding the cranes each winter, and soon their numbers began to grow. In one of the most promising examples of population restoration, over 1200 of the cranes, who represent longevity to the Japanese, now make Kushiro their permanent residence. Because of conservation efforts and the largesse of the locals, the tancho, as they are known in Japan, have given up their migratory ways. It’s hoped that as Japan sets policies to protect their environment, this population will slowly increase and continue to thrive in spite of shrinking wetlands.
© Michael Yamashita
Mpixels (22.4 MB uncompressed) - 3430x2287 pixels (11.4x7.6 in / 29.0x19.4 cm at 300 ppi)