Archived 2020 topic: Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis): revise global status?

BirdLife species factsheet for Black-necked Crane

Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) breeds on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau (China), with a small population in adjacent Ladakh in India (Li 2019). Three isolated wintering populations have been identified at lower altitudes in China and Bhutan: the Eastern population winters in northeastern Yunnan and northwestern Guizhou; the Central population winters in northwestern Yunnan; and the Western population winters in south-central Tibet and in Bhutan. The global population is estimated at 10,000-10,200 individuals (Li 2019), which roughly equates to 6,600-6,800 mature individuals.

Black-necked Crane is exclusively alpine and is found in bog meadows, riverine marshes or along riverbanks or large water bodies. This makes it susceptible to the loss and degradation of habitat.  The species is threatened by droughts and desertification of wetlands related to climate change, as the melting of glaciers and the degradation of permafrost are expected to lead to water shortages and extensive loss of shallow wetlands in the long-term (Farrington 2009, Qiu 2012). In the short-term, however, glacier melt seems to be favourable to the species, as it generates new wetland breeding habitat (J. Austin in litt. 2020). Further threats include the intensification of agriculture and human population growth. Nevertheless, the species is responding well to conservation action throughout its range, including the establishment of large networks of protected areas in China and India (Li 2019, Archibald et al. 2020, J. Austin in litt. 2020).

Uncertainty over the current population trend and the numerous threats facing the species had led to the cautious inference of an ongoing decline; hence the species was classified as Vulnerable under Criterion C2a(ii) when last assessed in 2016 (BirdLife International 2020). However, recent population monitoring has found that declines have stopped and the species appears to be recovering (Li 2019, Archibald et al. 2020, J. Austin in litt. 2020). Given these new findings, the species may warrant a change in Red List status; thus it is here re-assessed against all criteria:

Criterion A – In the past, Black-necked Crane was thought to be declining at a rate of 1-9% over three generations (39.3 years; Bird et al. 2020)*. Recent monitoring however indicates that declines have stopped; the population has stabilised during 2000-2010 and is currently stable or even slightly increasing (Li 2019). Previous declines have not been sufficient to list the species as threatened under Criterion A1 or A2. At present, the expansion of suitable habitat due to increased rates of glacier melt is considered one of the drivers of the favourable status of the species over the short term; although there is the possibility that future hydrological changes driven by climate change may adversely impact the species, as continuing glacier melt and permafrost degradation could lead to a loss of shallow wetlands over the long term. However, Black-necked Crane has also benefitted from the creation of protected areas in China and India. While there may be concern about the future direction of climate change-driven habitat change on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, current evidence is that an excellent conservation response (especially in the wintering areas) has successfully reduced the extinction risk of the species. Hence, with at least a decade of stability and low risk of rapid population declines in the near future, Black-necked Crane is proposed to be listed as Least Concern under Criterion A.

Criterion B – The Extent of Occurrence (EOO) from a Minimum Convex Polygon around the most restricted seasonal range is 1,790,000 km2; the Area of Occupancy (AOO) has not been estimated. In the absence of a continuing decline in the number of mature individuals or in range (which is thought most likely to have increased in the non-breeding season due to the designation of additional protected areas), the species does not meet the necessary subcriteria for listing as threatened under Criterion B. As such, it is proposed to be listed as Least Concern under this criterion.

Criterion C – The global population is estimated at roughly 6,600 – 6,800 mature individuals, but in the absence of a continuing decline, the species would not qualify for listing as threatened under Criterion C. As such, it is proposed that Black-necked Crane should be listed as Least Concern under this criterion.

Criterion D – The global population and range size are too large to warrant a listing as threatened under Criterion D. Black-necked Crane is therefore considered Least Concern under this criterion.   

Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.

Therefore, it is proposed that Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) be listed as Least Concern. The available evidence suggests that the species probably qualified for downlisting from Vulnerable to Near Threatened between 2000 and 2004, and from Near Threatened to Least Concern between 2008 and 2012. We welcome any comments on this proposed listing and on the proposed timing (to inform the coding of genuine changes in status for the Red List Index).

Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic. By submitting a comment, you confirm that you agree to the Comment Policy.

*Bird generation lengths are estimated using the methodology of Bird et al. (2020), as applied to parameter values updated for use in each IUCN Red List for birds reassessment cycle. Values used for the current assessment are available on request. We encourage people to contact us with additional or improved values for the following parameters; adult survival (true survival accounting for dispersal derived from an apparently stable population); mean age at first breeding; and maximum longevity (i.e. the biological maximum, hence values from captive individuals are acceptable).

An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.

References

Archibald, G. W.; Meine, C. D.; Kirwan, G. M. 2020. Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis), version 1.0. In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D. A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Birds of the World. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.blncra1.01 (Accessed 25 May 2020).

Bird, J. P.; Martin, R.; Akçakaya, H. R.; Gilroy, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Garnett, S.; Symes, A.; Taylor, J.; Şekercioğlu, Ç. H., Butchart, S. H. 2020. Generation lengths of the world’s birds and their implications for extinction risk. Conservation Biology, online first view.

BirdLife International. 2020. Species factsheet: Grus nigricollis. http://www.birdlife.org (Accessed 19 May 2020).

Farrington, J. D. 2009. Impacts of Climate Change on the Yangtze Source Region and Adjacent Areas. WWF and the China Meteorological Press, Beijing, China.

Li, F. 2019. Species Review: Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis): IUCN SSC Crane Specialist Group – Crane Conservation Strategy. In: Mirande, C. M.; Harris, J. T. (editors) 2019. Crane Conservation Strategy. International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA.

Qiu J. 2012. Thawing permafrost reduces river runoff: China’s Yangtze River is receiving less water as climate warms. Nature News, 6 January 2012. http://www.nature.com/news/thawing-permafrost-reduces-river-runoff-1.9749?WT.ec_id=NEWS-20120110 (Accessed 19 May 2020).

This entry was posted in Archive, Asia, Crane and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Archived 2020 topic: Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis): revise global status?

  1. James Eaton says:

    Two negative aspects not mentioned for this species, which I consider to be having such a negative affect, that the species should remain in its current threat category until a species-level study has been carried in conjunction with the two issues:

    1) nesting success, in India (at least), feral dogs are having a massive, negative affect on the populations of many species (from lizards, to Nilgai, leopards and birds), captured repeatedly on mobile phone videos. There has been numerous photos now of Black-necked Crane families being chased and harassed by these packs of dogs, undoubtably affecting nesting success.
    This is something that needs to be controlled beyond just crane, but to the country as a whole (presumably due to lack of vultures scavenging, with dogs now taking that niche).

    2) the rapid increase in road construction on the Tibetan plateau – several of which plough directly through crane nesting areas (I can provide co-ordinates, if required).

  2. I have been working as a conservation filmmaker in the Ladakh landscape for the past few years. While making a conservation film on feral dog problems on Wildlife of Ladakh. I have come across multiple incidences of feral dogs attacking even adult Black-necked Crane and not just chicks. One of the wildlife biologists Neeraj Mahar even filmed the incident on video. The downgrading status of Black-necked Crane can be detrimental for species. Along with feral dogs quite often sheep grazers camp often close to waterbodies where Black-necked Cranes camp. Their dogs too are direct threats to the species. I would strongly disagree with downgrading Black-necked Cranes status.

  3. Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury says:

    I think we should not rush to downlist it. It should continue to remain in vulnerable category. In Arunachal Pradesh small numbers winter at two sites on a regular basis with sporadic / stray records from a couple of more sites. Both the regular sites have become vulnerable owing to electification and other developments of the surrounding areas. In fact, some time back, one was electrocuted. Hence, despite their regular visit they are under constant threat.
    Last year I visited almost all the known sites including occasional haunts in Ladakh, a major breeding site. The number of grazing livestock has increased and they have occupied most of the occasional haunts and in regular areas also degradation is noticeable. In smaller occasional haunts, there is no chance but in other larger areas birds are there but a growing number of feral dogs coupled with livestock grazing the threat looms large. New and seasonal roads and increasing tourists are additional loads to the remaining habitats!

  4. In Bhutan, we have be able to stabilize and now slightly improve the population after working extensively working for the past 30 years, since 1987. Still, we can’t say that the population is stable because every year the number is changing and many of the habitats are under threat. It’s only in Phobjikha valley, habitats are protected and monitored. Still, a few BNCs are killed by feral dogs every year and a few die of other reasons. In other habitats in Bhutan, there are no proper monitoring, conservation and protection systems in place. As many of the foraging sites in Bhutan are private lands, we are still in the process of convincing people not to harm them when they in their farms and help conserve them. And even restrict farmers to change thier landuse pattern, concerning that change, might negatively impact BNC.
    It might be too early to make them Least Concerned, as we are still concerned. Particularly, convincing people to maintain the traditional land-use system for BNC, when the target species is least concerned might not work out effectively. Moreover, putting in place a proper monitoring, conservation and protection systems across thier habitat range (both wintering and breeding) would be necessary before changing the status.

  5. Simba Chan says:

    While waiting for my Chinese colleagues to comment on the Black-necked Crane at the forum (I hope by themselves but please understand language barriers exist) I hope to raise an issue, which is also written under Criterion A: in the longer term (it could be sooner than we commonly believe), climate change will result in a loss of suitable wetland habitats on Tibetan Plateau, where all Black-necked Cranes live. The effect will be beyond human control so establishing protected areas may not be the only answer to their long-term survival. That is the reason why placing this species with very special habitat requirement in the same rank as the more common and widespread species such as Eurasian Crane and Sandhill Crane is not appropriate, as their population is constantly under a real threat of drastic changes in highland habitats.

  6. Yumin Guo says:

    Here are three facts that will lead Black-necked Crane population structure into trouble should be noted:
    1. With the development of local economy, grids of power lines are setting up quickly in China. It has become a new threat for the Black-necked Cranes, especially for juvenile individuals. Nine out of 15 satellite tracked Black-necked Crane juveniles were killed by power lines in Linzhou, Tibet from 2018 to 2020 (the corresponding manuscript will be submitted soon).
    2. Tibetan foxes (Vulpes ferrilata) is a common species in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Its distribution overlaps with Black-necked Cranes, which is also a threat to the juveniles. Tibetan foxes were often spotted trailing behind the Black-necked Crane family. Babies can be hidden at first, and then the adults would fight with the Tibetan fox and keep it away from where the babies are hiding. But as young birds grow, they would be too big for hiding and could thus be killed by Tibetan foxes before fledgling. Some Black-necked Crane pairs even failed in reproduction almost every year.
    3. There are more than 500 individuals’ wintering along the Nyang and Yarlung Zangbo rivers in Nyingchi, Tibet. They breed at Qinghai Lake (related manuscript has been submitted). Their wintering area is very narrow. High way, railway and airport are crowding out cranes’ habitat. Some power stations have been set up on some tributaries of Yarlung Zangbo river. It is worthy of our worry that there might be new power stations set up along the main stream of Yarlung Zangbo river. If so, 5% of global Black-necked Crane population will lose their winter habitats at once. (Han and Guo, 2018. the full text in English and Chinese).
    So, we suggest that Black-necked Crane should remain in its current threat category at least.

    Reference
    Han Xuesong, Guo Yumin. Model Analysis for the Potential Threat to the Wintering Habitats of the Black-Necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) in Nyingchi, Tibet[J]. Chinese Journal of Wildlife, 2018.

  7. Xiaojun Yang says:

    I have studied the ecology and conservation of the Black necked Crane for more than 20 years in China. Based on my researches and field experiences, I provide my opnions on the conservation status change of the species. First, because of the melting glaciers  on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, lake and swamp areas are increasing, which is benefit for breeding of the species and has promoted their population expanding. But this effect is not sustainable. Second, main threats to the species came from  wintering areas. Because of human interference, areas of wintering habitats are decreasing and some population have been compressed to several fixed regions, which has brought serious conservation management problems. In Tibet, traditional farming has been translated to modern agriculture. More and more greenhouses have been built along river side of the Yalung Zangbo River, which decreased maizi and highland barley residuum in the farmland. Thus, wintering food shortage has become a new threat to the species. Besides, urbanization and more residential areas have been expanded to river regions and winter habitats of the species have been occupied. Third, the police of returning farmland to forests are nibbling wetland and farmland habitats of the species. Under these circumstances, I think a demotion will mislead the conservation actions and weaken funds and policies for protection of the species around the world, esepcially for their wintering habiat protection. So I opposed to the  downlisting of the species.

  8. To supplement my colleagues’ statements above, I would like to submit a couple of points for consideration:
    1. The increasing overall population trend can be attributed to both the conservation efforts in its range countries and the favorable natural phenomenon occurring in the breeding areas due to the melting of glaciers creating larger and safer nesting sites. However, in the wintering sites, cranes congregate in large population in small areas. These habitats often intersects with human settlements.
    2. In Bhutan, areas having wintering Black-necked Cranes have well received policy backings and funds for conservation as a flagship species. This has helped in maintaining the ecosystems of all the habitats for other lesser known species. While we can celebrate the success of recovering the population, downgrading the status to the proposed ‘least concerned’ status would entail lesser rights in the decision makings.
    3. We therefore, submit our recommendation to the committee to reconsider the proposal.

    • Neeraj Mahar says:

      Downgrading Black-necked Crane (BNC) based on aforesaid criteria would be an imprudent step for the long term conservation of the species in its natural habitat. In this context, I have few points to highlight-
      (i) Global Population- Li et al (2019) has estimated global population around 10000 individuals which is based on rough estimate rather than a precise scientific method which was previously assumed to be around 8000 individuals by Archibald pers. Comm. Hence, it is too early to conclude about global population trend without a scientifically sound estimation or long term monitoring. Moreover, Li (2014) has argued down listing of BNC in detail.
      (ii) Habitat- Undoubtedly, ‘thawing’ creates new lakes but not necessarily an ideal habitat for BNC since anthropogenic factors, habitat type, water parameters (eg. depth) play a significant role in shaping survival of BNC (Zhang et al 2017). However, in Ladakh, thawing is a cause of nesting failure in BNC (per. obs.). Usually, during summers when glacier water recedes in catchment areas, results into water level increase into many wetlands which submerge established nesting sites (during incubation and nest building). This pattern was observed over three consecutive years (2015-2017) in Changthang (Ladakh) (per. obs.). During May-June months of each year, submergence or destruction of nests was recorded in early attempts of incubation/ nest formation due to thawing. Being the largest among the alpine cranes and small brood size (usually 2), BNC has gone through a decrease in breeding success in Ladakh despite increase in population (<100 individuals). Many development activities have been rejected due to considering current status of BNC like Nyamjang Chhu River Hydro project in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333131182_Assessment_of_habitat_use_by_Black-necked_Crane_and_eflows_of_Nyamjang_Chu_hydroelectric_project_in_Tawang_Dsitrict_Arunachal_Pradesh). Despite having major global population of BNC in Tibet, mostly all ranging countries share unsettled international boundaries with each other. Thus, these countries are undergoing massive defense infrastructure development across the crucial BNC habitats. Downgrading ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Least Concern’ IUCN status would unleash several large and destructive proposed developmental activities on ground which experts seem not concerned as of now.
      (iii) Anthropogenic Factors- Feral/ Free ranging dogs have posed a great threat to breeding success in India (Chandan et al. 2005; Chandan et al. 2014). Apart from predating on eggs and chicks of BNC, dogs have seen often attacking on adult cranes during breeding season in Ladakh. Similar factors have been found accountable for breeding failure in Tibet (Wu et al 2009; Lhendup & Webb 2009; Zhang et al 2017). Further, India has witnessed local extinction of BNC from its former known wintering sites in eastern Himalaya (Arunachal Pradesh) (Choudhury 2002). Apart, tourism is another key concern for BNC habitats across its range (Geneletti & Dawa 2009; Xiang et al. 2014; Humbert-Droz 2017).
      Moreover, its not just about the species, review committee has to consider challenges related to breeding and wintering habitats, genetic variability and meta-population dynamics. Such crucial points are missing in criteria.
      Hence, a detailed discussion/brainstorming session is required prior to downgrade the IUCN status of BNC acknowledging uncertain/unforeseen environmental challenges and limited knowledge.

  9. Ramesh Chaudhary says:

    It’s been described as very rare and local summer visitor to Humla, in the far-west of Nepal (Inskipp et al., 2016) and vagrant elsewhere. There has been only few records from Fewa Lake of Pokhara. I have seen them breeding in the western Tibet. Tibetan people are moving from nomadic lifestyle to permanent settlement. In this process, they are occupying Black-necked Crane’s habitat. Hunting and trapping is not the biggest threat, but loss of their habitat is the biggest threat in Tibet.

  10. Down grading status of BNC from Vulnerable to Least Concerned is not at all a good recommended at this junctue.

    I represent a local organization in Leh Ladakh, India called the Wildlife Conservation and Birds Club of Ladakh (WCBCL). Changthang in eastern Ladakh is the only breeding ground for BNCs in India. As per our observations, we have hardly 10- 15 pairs of BNCs visiting Ladakh for breeding beside another 15 -20 odd individuals in summer months, totalling their numbers roughly to just about 60 +.

    Over the years we have seen very bad decline in the breeding success in Ladakh.

    Primary reasons for the decline in successful breeding are:
    1. Menace of Long-ranging /feral dogs to wildlife including the BNCs. These dogs eating away their eggs, chicks and often adult BNCs.

    2. Disturbance due to construction of fencing around their breeding habitat, road, traffic, noice pollution, movement restrictions and growing encroachment of their habitats.

    Due to the above and may be more other reasons, the breeding success of BNCs in Ladakh, India is not accending on a graph, but the opposite.

    We at the local level with the support of concerned departments and stakeholders are trying our best to intervene this decline with simple, practical and cost effective programs including BNC Nest Adoptions/ BNC Nest Watch program and Awareness building projects in pipeline.

    To propagate and promote the need of conservation of this species, and to garner support we have also proposed to the local government – LAHDC Leh and UT Ladakh administration to elect BNC as State Bird of the New Union Territory Of Ladakh.

    Conclusive Note & Appeal:
    To downgrade the Status from Vulnerable to Least Concerned at this stage is not advisable. As such, we (representing Ladakh’s Avifauna loving population) appeal to the committee concerned not to downgrade the status and if cannot be upgraded to CV (Critically Vulnerable), but appeals to keep it as Vulnerable as it was earlier in the status.

  11. Although global population of Black-necked Crane is showing an increasing trend but species is still facing very serious threats at the fragile high altitude wetlands where the bird breeds. In India currently only 12 – 15 pairs breed every year and considering this small breeding population in India, it is vital to protect each and every breeding pair and its habitat. The overall population for India is around 100 birds only.

    Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary in Eastern Ladakh in India is the western most extension of the breeding range of the species. In this area the species is facing some serious threats from unregulated tourism, linear infrastructure in the form of roads and powerlines, grazing pressure from the livestock owned by nomads and presence of a large number of free ranging dogs in the entire landscape.

    Black-necked Crane population in India is highly threatened and downgrading the conservation status of this species will have serious implications for the conservation of the species. Also this will result in reduced attention towards conservation efforts for high altitude wetlands in general, where the bird breeds and for Black-necked Crane in particular. Moreover, species has been listed as an important species for conservation in the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) action plan for India which was released at the recently concluded CMS COP-13 at Gandhinagar in India. Also this species is an excellent tool for conservation of Himalayan high altitude wetlands and a vehicle for regional collaboration among the range states.

  12. The following information was compiled based on extensive consultation with Black-necked Crane experts in the IUCN SSC Crane Specialist Group and staff at the International Crane Foundation.

    Under Criterion C (number of mature individuals less than 10,000)
    The global population is estimated at 10,000-10,200 individuals (Li 2019), which roughly equates to 6,600-6,800 mature individuals.
    AND
    C1. An observed, estimated or projected continuing decline of at least 10% in 39.3 years (up to a max. of 100 years in future):

    While numbers are currently stable, long-term threats (loss of habitat in breeding areas due to climate change) and short-term threats affecting breeding success (land use change, increased pressure on wetlands due to infrastructure, overgrazing leading to wetland degradation, human disturbance and rapid increase in predation from feral dogs) and wintering areas (rapid land use change, increased powerlines and predation by feral dogs) project a decline of at least 10% in three generations, increasing up to 100 years.

    It is strongly recommended that the Red List status is maintained at Vulnerable, pending further research on i) impacts of infrastructure development and land use in both breeding and wintering areas ii) assessment of breeding success and survival rates with increased predation by feral dogs, including proposed control measures and iii) predictions of longer-term climate change scenarios on extent and availability of breeding habitat.

  13. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. We greatly appreciate the time and effort invested by so many people in commenting. The window for consultation is now closed. We will analyse and interpret the new information and post a preliminary decision on this species’s Red List status on this page in early July.

    Thank you once again,
    BirdLife Red List Team

  14. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Preliminary proposal

    Based on available information, the population is suspected to be undergoing a decline of at least 10% (S. Millington in litt. 2020) in 3 generations (39.3 years; Bird et al. 2020). The population size is furthermore considered to fall below the required threshold ( Thus, our preliminary proposal for the 2020 Red List would be to list the Black-necked Crane as Near Threatened, nearly meeting Criterion C1+2a(i).

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline in mid-July, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  15. Dimpi Patel says:

    I am not a bird expert but I would agree to previous comments that downgrading the status of this species to least concern will not at all help in conservation approach. Have sighted this bird in changthang region of India and through my personal observations over last 2 years, it is clear that this species is at serious risk of free ranging dogs. Their breeding grounds are also getting affected one or the other way. I appeal to keep it under vulnerable category at least.

  16. Girish A. Punjabi says:

    I am no bird researcher, but reading the entire chain of responses, as a biologist, my opinion is that the wintering range is much smaller than the breeding range of the Black-necked crane (Pg. 302; Li 2019). This makes the bird highly Vulnerable to any unexpected changes in wintering habitat due to localized threats, or epidemics causing mass-die offs during the wintering season. This should be accounted for during any status reassessment. Also, the population status is based on references, some of which are a decade old (Pg. 303-305; Li 2019). With uncertainty in present estimates and rapidly increasing threats in the breeding and wintering range of the species, any downlisting needs a strong argument. Overall, unless robust monitoring is brought in, many of these exercises to downlist species status should be taken up with extreme caution.

  17. Narendra Patil says:

    (1) The global population estimation of 10,000 – 10,200 individuals (Li 2019) is based on some references which are a decade old (Pg. 303-305; Li 2019) so estimation is not confidence-inducing.

    (2) Jia et al. (2019) have summarized the population of the black-necked cranes as 8291 individuals in the Yarlung Tsangpo Basin and Bhutan’s population as 500 cranes. Authors state that together this number forms 81.2% of the total population of the species. Then, an additional population in north-eastern China is assumed to be 4300 cranes, taking the population estimation to 15,126 individuals! However, Jia et al. (2019) did not survey the north-eastern region in their study so that number is only an assumption.

    (3) Such wild difference in population estimates between Li (2019) and Jia et al. (2019) from China speaks for lack of rigor in population estimations and lack of standardization with methods.

    Given that the Red List status of a species is such an important ‘conservation tool’, this exercise to downlist species status should be take-up with extreme caution. With uncertainty in estimates and increasing threats in both breeding and wintering range of the species, any downlisting seems unjustified and imprudent.

  18. I think downgrading the status of this species of which population has not been estimated robustly, is a step that can critically affect the future of this magnificent species. The species is of extremely important cultural significance to the Monpas (who consider it an embodiment of the sixth Dalai Lama) and recently a new possible wintering site has been discovered from the Arunachal Pradesh State (https://www.threatenedtaxa.org/index.php/JoTT/article/view/5337). Going by the numbers and sightings from Arunachal Pradesh itself, the species is of critical conservation concern and needs to studied further, and steps to downgrade its conservation status are not justified at all.

  19. Black-necked Crane is one of the only Aphine Crane and in India, its breeding habitats in eastern part of Ladakh, Changthang region of India Himalayas. BNC habitats in Changthang region are attacked by free ranging stray dogs, which are in great numbers and Wildlife Conservation & Birds Club of Ladakh(WCBCL) is doing its own way to conserve, protect these Black-necked Crane during this short breeding summer season in Ladakh. Its status should be kept as Vulnerable and its status are still stagnate in this region as due lots of human interverance and free ranging dogs BNC lives are in great danger. BNC status should not changes its status from Vulnerable.

  20. Neeraj Mahar says:

    I would like to second the previous comments which have highlighted the issue related to population status of Black-necked crane (BNC) in Li (2009). Apart from my initial submission to Red List forum, here I would like to add more specific issues. In terms of India, Ladakh has the major population of BNC which includes 50-70 adults/sub-adult individuals which reside in Ladakh. The breeding population has only restricted to wetlands of Changthang plateau in Ladakh (India). Tourism and defense focused development has increased drastically in last few decades. As per the Tourist Department data, ~77800 tourists visited Ladakh in 2009 which has increased upto 327366 tourists in 2017, and most of these tourist destinations were around lakes/wetlands (BNC habitats). Further, due to border dispute between India & China, both countries have increased their defense infrastructure capacity along the disputed areas which is another matter of concern as most of these developments are taking place near wetlands/lakes. Recent border skirmishes between both countries have shown the possibility that a species which appears to be ‘out of danger’ to many bird experts actually exists amidst two Asian Giant countries and in one of the most vulnerable conflict zones (since 1962 Indo-Sino War). Hence, there is a need to reconsider such alarming threat(s) prior to down-list status BNC which holds a global significance.

  21. Sonam Dorjay says:

    I Sonam Dorjay a resident of Hanle Changthang region in Ladakh(UT) India.

    I want share some of my experience about Black Naked Crane.

    Four – five year earlier every couple were able to grow one or two chicks and fly back these chicks along with them before winter.

    Now ground situation is that couple from last four – five years not able to grow and take care of their chicks, which I think these are the reasons
    1. Every day dog were seen roaming around the area, where these BNC and their chicks live.
    2. Sometimes Red Fox were also seen
    roaming around those area.

    Before this news of down grading BNC rom vurnerable to Least Concerned, I was thinking of requesting wildlife and other NGOs related to BNC to give more concern and protection to these birds.

    This year one couple were having two chicks, from them one disappear after 5days and then after 3days another chick was also not there. I was very sad on seeing this situation.
    If this thing happen every year then, it will effect population of BNC very much.

    Thanks

  22. I am a cartoonist who draws about wildlife and conservation. Given the current environmental scenario in India, which is witnessing fast-tracked environmental clearances by the environment ministry, dilution of environmental laws and the active severance of public participation in environmental decisions, it is very likely that the downlisting of the species will be used to the advantage of corporate and industrial interests. I therefore request BirdLife and the IUCN to reconsider the decision.

  23. Jai says:

    A decision to downgrade status from Vulnerable to Least Concern seems totally imprudent and hasty at this juncture. It is almost certain to lead to a significant slackening of concern and conservation measures of the species as well as its habitat, which would inevitably have severely detrimental consequences not only on the Black Necked Crane populations, but on its conspecifics as well.

    The rationale postulated for the downgrading seem to not take into account persistent threats to the population, threats that are set to worsen in the near future. Across the Himalaya and the Tibetan plateau, human land use patterns are changing, and this is set to accelerate with expanding highways, dams and other infrastructure projects being implemented by India, China, Nepal, Bhutan etc. Loss and degradation of habitat are significant and continuing threats and it is shocking that these impacts have not been considered. Of what purpose is a cosmetic downgrading now, if it creates such problems as to lead to reclassification as Vulnerable, or even Endangered, just a few years down the line?

    Appeal to take a longer term and broader perspective of the risks involved and retain the classification as is.

  24. Tsewang Namgail says:

    I appreciate the concerted effort to reassess the conservation status of the black-necked crane (BNC), a truly iconic bird that captivates the imagination of millions of people across the planet. It is the barometer of wetland health in the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau. Thank you for giving this opportunity to voice our concerns. I came to know about the proposal rather late, and hence this delayed response. Many of the points that I wanted to raise have already been conveyed by many experts, but still I would like to put across some thoughts. The recent population estimates from China that seem to tip the balance have already been discussed, so I would rather try to build a case in the Indian context. Again, since there are several publications talking about the declining population of black-necked crane in India, I will focus mostly on the threats including some emerging ones.

    Currently, the BNC habitats in Ladakh are fraught with multiple challenges. Below, I give a run-down of the main threats (socio-cultural, economic as well as political). Although these are all couched in the Indian context, they also apply to the entire range of the bird to a large extent.

    Political upheaval
    Ladakh, the primary breeding area of BNC in India, recently underwent a political metamorphosis after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which inter alia shielded the environment and ecosystems in Ladakh from corporations. Consequently, Ladakh lost all the safeguards against exploitation by the industry, and currently the concerned citizens are exploring alternative arrangements so that the fragile ecosystem can be secured to sustain the region’s unique bi0-cultural resources. In the meanwhile, the down-listing of the iconic BNC can be leveraged by corporations, for it will give them a greater legitimacy to carry out activities that are inimical not only to the cranes but also to the fragile ecosystem of this unique bio-zone in India.

  25. Rohan Menzies says:

    Based on my experiences with wintering Black-necked Cranes in Arunachal Pradesh and with conversations with the people who have observed this species, I feel that the downlisting of the species is not justified.

    The species used to be recorded in Subansiri where it is thought to have been hunted out and it has not been seen for many years. The only Black-necked Crane I have ever seen was of a hunted individual in Mechuka which is a new wintering site. That part of Arunachal Pradesh likely has more, as yet undiscovered, wintering sites/stopover points for the species; however, there is little or no data on this. Without accurate knowledge of the situation, we cannot fully gauge the potential threats as well. The likely threat of hunting may not be commonplace in the areas where it is found (Zemithang, Shergaon, Mechuka) in Arunachal Pradesh since the species is revered and protected by the predominant local tribes in those areas; however, in combination with other threats (climate change, pesticide use, altered farming practices, dam construction, etc.), the wintering birds are likely to move to regions where hunting is more prevalent and then be killed. Records of new wintering sites suggest that this could already be occurring.

    Overall, I don’t think that we fully understand the situation of the Black-necked Crane in Arunachal Pradesh and that should be considered while deciding on downlisting the species. Even if the crane is not a targeted species for hunting, losing a single wintering female to hunting would impact the overall population, and this is not inconceivable with the birds wintering in Arunachal Pradesh.

    Finally, with the large number of proposed dams (>130) in Arunachal Pradesh, I believe that, especially in the upper reaches of the state, the Black-necked Crane will afford some protection to river systems and other river dependent species. I fear that downlisting the crane now might lead to uplisting many other species in the near future.

  26. Tsewang Namgail says:

    ……..continued from the previous comment (did not allow the whole thing last time on account of the length)

    Free-ranging dogs
    Currently, there is a tension along the disputed border between the two major BNC range countries (fortunately it has subsided a wee bit in the last few days), and both countries have ramped up their armed forces along the border. Unfortunately, several prime BNC habitats are located right along the border, and it’s been widely reported that the military outposts along the border are becoming breeding hubs of free-ranging dogs, which are wreaking havoc in the region, massacring wild critters, and the BNC is bearing the brunt of this. I myself have seen dogs feeding on the eggs and chicks of the bird on multiple occasions. A recent conservative estimate based on a survey suggests that there are about 3000 dogs in an area of less than 20,000 km2 encompassing prime BNC habitats. Thus, it is not difficult to visualize the level of threat this is posing to cranes.

    Mass tourism
    Unregulated tourism is the other culprit that is taking a toll on these elegant birds. After the popularization of the Pangong lake by a bollywood film in 2009, every other person in the country wants to visit the lake. Ill-informed tourists wantonly walk close to the cranes’ nests and thoughtless drivers wander off the roads and drive their cars along the shore of the high altitude lakes, thereby disturbing the cranes and many other migratory birds. Several tourists camps are mushrooming around crane habitats to cater to this surging number of tourists, which exacerbate the menace of dogs, as these camps do not have proper garbage management system in place.

    Climate change
    The environmental and ecological exigencies by dint of climate change in Ladakh is widely acknowledged. In fact, climate change threatens the cranes not only in Ladakh but throughout its range. Although I have seen arguments that rapid melting of glaciers can expand BNC habitats, it could on the contrary shrink the habitat, depending on the topography of the area. This is especially tenable in case of riverine habitats in narrower valleys where the high water velocity due to increased volume renders the river banks unsuitable for the cranes. I also have observed greater inflow of water into lakes inundating nests of cranes.

  27. Tsewang Namgail says:

    …………………….continued

    Cultural threats
    There is a cultural erosion all across the BNC range. Black-necked Crane was (‘is’ in certain areas) revered by people of the local communities. The bird also features in several folk songs, dances and stories. Accordingly, the species enjoyed some level of socio-religious protection. But alas, all that is changing. Greed is replacing the creed of reverence in light of globalization and modernization. These days, local people respond not to moral and social incentives but to economic incentives. They are not willing to protect the cranes without tangible benefits in sight.

    Economic threats
    Both India and China, two of the most populous countries in the world, are on a path to rapid development. The government of both countries have huge responsibilities to ameliorate the lives of millions of their citizens. Thus, numerous dams are being built over the Himalayan rivers to cater to the greater need of power to fuel the rapid economic growth, so much so that Himalaya has arguably become the most heavily dammed region in the world. These dams not only inundate crane habitats but also displace thousands of people.

    Given all these, I urge the assessors to reconsider the proposal and retain the current conservation status, just to be on the safe side. They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining, but for the cranes, the cloud is darkening, as there is a deluge of fuel in sight that will stoke the aforementioned fires. Since the IUCN’s Red List is used as a yardstick for conservation planning and decision-making at the national level, we need to be a tad judicious in this matter. Otherwise, the trumpeting calls of cranes that reverberate the Changthang plateau might fall silent simply because we did not listen to the clarion calls in time.

  28. The Black-necked Crane continues to face very serious threats at the fragile high altitude wetlands where it breeds. In India, an estimated 12–15 pairs breed every year, with an overall population of around 100. The importance of protecting this small breeding population and its habitat can not be overstated.

    The Changthang Cold Desert Wildlife Sanctuary in Eastern Ladakh in India is the western most extension of the breeding range of the species, and harbours the major population of bird of about 50-70 adults/sub-adult individuals
    Here, unregulated tourism is a key threat. Tourism has increased drastically; In 2017, ~327300 visited Ladakh, an increase from ~77800 visitors in 2009, as per the tourist department data. Most of this traffic is concentrated on destinations near lakes and wetlands, which are black-necked crane habitats, besides harbouring other rare wildlife.
    Another very serious threat comes from defense infrastructure, which has increased drastically in the last few decades. Further, due to the border dispute between India & China, both countries have increased their defense infrastructure—roads, highways, power transmission lines etc—along the disputed areas which further endangers the birds, as most of these developments are near wetlands/lakes.
    The areas which were isolated thus fostering protection to the wildlife here, including the cranes are now rapidly developing.
    Across the Himalaya and the Tibetan plateau, land use patterns are changing, and this is set to accelerate with expanding highways, dams and other infrastructure projects being implemented by India, China, Nepal, Bhutan etc.

    In Arunachal Pradesh, India, the bird winters in the Sangti valley in West Kameng district, the Zemithang and the Chug valley in Tawang district. This wintering habitat threatens to be submerged by hydel projects. The Black-necked crane is held sacred. It has important cultural significance to the Monpas, who consider it an embodiment of the sixth Dalai Lama.
    Population estimates lack rigour. Although BNC numbers have recorded an increase from an estimated 7,000 in the early 1990s to about 10,000 currently (Li 2019), while some estimates put it to ~15,000.
    It has been argued that the estimates are not based on a rigorous scientific method, and standarisation of techniques.
    Easing the Red List status of this species will result in reduced attention towards conservation efforts for high altitude wetlands–breeding grounds of the crane–in general, and for Black-necked Crane in particular. Moreover, species has been listed as an important species for conservation in the Central Asian Flyway action plan for India, at the CMS COP-13 at Gandhinagar (Gujarat) in India in Feb-2020.
    Indeed, reclassifying the Black-necked crane will lull us into a false sense of security thereby increasing the birds’ risk of extinction.
    I urge you against reclassification of the black-necked crane and instead highlight its vulnerable status for its much needed protection.

  29. Narendra Patil says:

    Dr. Gopi Sundar in his recent popular science article on Woolly-Necked Storks mentions, “The conservation status deliberation … is conducted openly, on online portals, at frequent intervals, and anyone can contribute their knowledge to the process. This process is exemplary because it acknowledges that not all information on a species is available in one fixed place – like the scientific literature – for Red List use…”

    This broad-based consultative process, in addition to basing assessment on inputs from experts that gives credibility to Red List. Therefore, I hope that in keeping with this admirable approach and in the light of all the preceding comments by concerned citizens, scientists, naturalists, photographers and journalists, IUCN will retain the existing red list status of BNC as ‘Vulnerable’.

  30. Red List Team (BirdLife International) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following careful review and consideration of the available information, including that provided through the consultation above, we have now reached a decision on the status of this species for the 2020 global Red List of birds. Our conclusion is to accept the preliminary decision and recommend that Black-necked Crane is listed as Near Threatened, approaching the thresholds for listing as Vulnerable under Criterion C1+2a(ii).

    Many thanks for everyone who contributed to the 2020 GTB Forum process. The Red List is a dynamic tool and we reassess the status of birds approximately every four years, allowing the rapid inclusion of new information into the assessments. The final 2020 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in December 2020/January 2021, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.