60 endangered red-crowned cranes hatched in China

Beijing, August 4:Over 60 red-crowned crane chicks have hatched in a nature reserve in China, stated to be the world's largest artificial breeding centre for the endangered birds.

Red-crowned cranes, are usually found in the northeast of China, Japan and North Korea.

The present population of red-crowned cranes in the Zhalong National Nature Reserve stands at 360, Gao Zhongyan, an official with the crane taming and breeding centre in the reserve in Heilongjiang Province said.

There are no more than 1,000 red-crowned cranes living in the wild in China and about 2,000 worldwide.

The number of the newly-hatched cranes every year is almost equal to that released to the wild so that the population of the cranes in the reserve remains stable at around 360, Gao told to media.

The artificial breeding centre aims to raise a new crane population with a healthy genetic pedigree and release them to the wild.

Each baby crane's basic information will be recorded, and they will wear ring marks on their legs so they are recognised when they grow up to mate and breed to avoid inbreeding and a population decline, Gao said.

The artificially bred cranes are healthy enough to be released to the wild, according to Gao.

The Zhalong reserve, covering 2,100 square kilometres, was set up in 1979 and was based on China's largest reed wetland.

It provides a major habitat for red-crowned cranes and other wildlife.

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