Czech Radio is co-organizer of a project which involves tracking black storks to their wintering grounds in Africa and India. The aim of the project is not just to help establish the various migration routes that these birds take every spring and autumn but to help protect them along the way. The sad outcome of last year's endeavour - two of the three storks to which zoologists had attached satellite transmitters were shot by local hunters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the third is missing -underline the importance of this work. Lubomir Peske is a zoologist who has been involved in the project since 1994 and he is off to the black storks' breeding grounds in Siberia this Friday for the latest stage of this experiment.
"We hope to attach three transmitters to three adult black storks and we will wait for coordinates from the satellite system ARGOS which should enable us to follow the migration process step by step."
And where do you expect them to end up?
"We believe -and indeed hope -that it is in India, which appears to be the only safe wintering ground for black storks because of the Indian people's religion and their positive attitude towards Nature. For instance in Pakistan people hunt animals a lot-especially around water, around lakes and rivers where birds and animals must stop to drink."
But they will still take that route to India - will they not - across dangerous territory?
"Yes, that is quite a problem. They must either cross the Himalaya Mountains or take the much easier way along the Pamir mountain range and Hindu Kush in Afghanistan and then turn east towards the Indian peninsula."
How long does it take them to reach India?
"Judging by our European birds - they should cover the distance in one to two months depending on what route they take. They must also stop for food and water along the way. Their return to the breeding grounds tends to be much quicker because they are in a hurry to get back to the breeding site. Those who get there first have the advantage of choosing the best nest, the best location - and - the best partner."
So when do you expect them back in Siberia?
"Because of the harsh winters in Siberia breeding takes place a bit later than in Europe -which would be in March. In Siberia we expect them at the end of April, because the Siberian winter is very long."
Well, good luck to them and good luck to you - I hope you'll visit us again when you get back to tell us how you fared.
For more information about the project, with snapshots and regular updates in both English and Czech, please go to www.rozhlas.cz/odyssea .
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