The U.S. State Department has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s participation in a project to save white cranes, which are on the verge of extinction.
“The Russian Government and President Putin himself are very committed to wildlife conservation. I don’t know if all of you know this, but Siberian cranes are a critically endangered species,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Thursday. “And so President Putin has personal involvement in the issue.”
On his way to the APEC summit in the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, Putin stopped by in the city of Salekhard. From there, he flew on board a helicopter to the Kushevat ornithological station/sanctuary, where he took part on Wednesday in a project to save a rare bird species, flying in an ultralight with a flock of migrating Siberian white cranes who took him for their leader.
Ventrell also told journalists: “We, as the United States, remain dedicated to conservation, to ending illicit traffic in endangered species, and we look forward to continued cooperation with Russia to conserve a number of endangered species, including tigers, leopards, and polar bears.”
He added that Putin’s “personal involvement focuses much needed international attention on the plight of these iconic migratory birds.”
The Flight of Hope project that Putin took part in aims to save the Red List crane species, which is under the threat of extinction.
Putin steered a specially outfitted motorized hang glider, flying with the birds to show them the way to warmer places. He made three flights: one test flight to get hands-on experience with the machine and two more together with the cranes.
Under the project, young cranes are shown the way to fly from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District via West Siberia and Kazakhstan to southern Uzbekistan, where "alternative" wintering grounds - the world’s first - are being created.