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Record high number of red-crowned cranes observed in Hokkaido in December

Wild red-crowned cranes are seen in the village of Tsurui, Hokkaido, during observations carried out by the prefectural government on Dec. 5, 2019. (Mainichi/Kimitaka Hirayama)

KUSHIRO, Hokkaido -- The prefectural government announced on Jan. 8 that it had observed 1,215 red-crowned cranes on the island on Dec. 5, 2019, marking a record high for December.

The figure is 199 more than in the same period the previous year. The local authority will count the number of birds again in Japan's northernmost prefecture on Jan. 24 as the migration of such birds to feeding grounds on the island is expected to begin in earnest then.

In Japan, the red-crowned crane only inhabits Hokkaido and is designated as a national special natural treasure. The popular bird once had been endangered in the country but has gradually been recovering in number due to preservation activities. The largest number of the birds ever recorded in Japan -- some 1,320 -- was confirmed in January 2016. Since fiscal 2015, the Ministry of the Environment has been reducing its feeding of the birds in winter by 10% annually to disperse the habitat of the bird.

The Hokkaido Prefectural Government has been counting the number of wild cranes in its territory since 1952 to examine the distribution and scale of the birds spending the winter there. The Dec. 5, 2019 observation was carried out at 313 locations in 41 municipalities. Most of the cranes, 1,038 of the 1,215, were spotted in the Kushiro region in eastern Hokkaido.

(Japanese original by Kimitaka Hirayama, Kushiro Resident Bureau)

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