One of the Siberian white cranes that flew with an ultralight-flying President Vladimir Putin in September was almost killed by dogs in Kazakhstan but was rescued, a presidential spokesman said on Wednesday.
In early September, Putin flew an ultralight as part of the "Flight of Hope" project to train the captive-bred birds to fly to wintering grounds in the south.
When the actual migration began, only one of the Siberian white cranes was able to keep up with a flock of Gray cranes flying to a stopover in Kazakhstan.
There feral dogs preyed on the birds, but only the Siberian white crane, sensing no threat, was in danger.
“People fought off the dogs and sheltered the bird,” Peskov said.
The rescued bird and five fellows from the "Flight of Hope" project are now scheduled to be transported by plane to wintering grounds in Uzbekistan, said Peskov, who credited joint efforts by officials in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with saving the birds.
The cranes were raised at the Kushevat ornithological station/sanctuary and had to be shown the route to wintering grounds. Kushevat is near the city of Salerkhard, which is located close to the Arctic circle.
The project aims to show young cranes the way to fly from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District via Western Siberia and Kazakhstan to southern Uzbekistan where "alternative" wintering grounds - the world’s first - are being created.
Birds raised in a sanctuary are unable to fly to wintering grounds on their own since they do not have adult members of the species to show them the way.
The preservation effort has been criticized for allowing two young Siberian white cranes to die in transit to the training grounds with Putin, a colossal loss for the sanctuary's population of 20.