Most of Muraviovka’s funding comes from international sources, including the International Crane Foundation (more on cranes below). THe park also supports a lot of its activities from money it raises on its own, through environmental education camps, tours and accomodations for visitors, selling some crops, and more. The territory of the park is rented from the local government under a long-term lease agreement. In
The park also grows corn that is used to feed rare cranes that stop at the park in the fall on their migrations south to
Cranes and storks are also signature species at Khingansky Zapovednik, my next destination. At Muraviovka I started to learn more about the ecology and biology of these birds – where they nest (cranes build their nests in wetlands; storks in the trees), what they eat (mostly little fish), what their behavior is like, what they are threatened by. Cranes are known for their dancing, and they can dance anytime, just because they feel good. While wintering a whole flock can start dancing with one crane in the lead. Red-crowned cranes have the most complicated dances, and it even can be the case that every pair has its own dance. Each species of crane also has its calls, and you can identify 10-15 different calls, signifying such things as alarm, that there is food nearby, and so on.
Lately there has been a drop in numbers of red-crowned cranes in the Amur Region. Some think this might be due to the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Zeya and
While I was at Muraviovka we had opportunities to see pairs of white-naped cranes and Far-Eastern storks in the park with chicks. (The chicks are born in the spring – May – and the parents and chicks will stay in the park until the fall migration south.) You can’t approach them closely, and you have to be very quiet, but you can see them through binoculars. We also saw “bachelor” red-crowned cranes, as well as roe deer. The best time to see them is early in the morning – which means I was up at or before 6 am a couple of days! In June in the Amur Region the sun is already up at 5:00 am, and does not go down until about 10:30 pm.
Muraviovka sponsors contests for both kids and adults related to nature conservation, and the projects the park receives are pretty amazing – real works of art. At the park itself, in addition to camps, Muraviovka also gives guided tours for visitors along a short environmental trail, and has a small environmental education center. The camps the park offers and the tours are not free (and neither is staying as the park), as the park uses the money it makes to stay in existence – it has no government funding, after all, and works to earn money on its own. Its ultimate – although perhaps unattainable – goal is to make enough money to cover all its costs – right now it earns money on the sale of the crops it grows, on camps and tours, and on overnight guest fees.
While I was at Muraviovka I was lucky to get to spend plenty of time chatting with 4 of the park’s staff members – Sergei, the park’s founder, Marina, the park’s current director (who also teaches English at a local school), Galya, a university student doing summer field work in the park on crane roosting sites, and Svetlana, who works mostly out of Blagoveschensk.
On my third day at Muraviovka a group of Korean filmmakers came to the park from Khingansky Zapovednik, and they brought with them an American graduate student, Robin, who is in vet school at Cornell and doing summer field work on parasites in cranes at Khingansky’s Center for Reintroduction of Rare Birds. Robin graduated from Harvard the same year that I graduated from