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Winter life in DMZ: how red-crowned cranes survive cold Updated: 2021-01-15 03:54:20 KST

A flock of red-crowned cranes crouch together to fight the shivering cold.
Usually moving together, they rise to the sky in unison to search for food.
They find and peck on Job's tears, one of their favorite grains.
Dancing birds can sometimes be seen trying to attract their one and only mate in their 80-year life.
Standing up to 150 centimeters tall these rare winter migrants are classed as an endangered species.

"Over a thousand red-crowned cranes and some 2 thousand white-naped cranes, roughly one third of the total worldwide population of each species, come to Korea to spend the winter, with many coming to this riverside in Yeoncheon."

Coming all the way from Siberia in search of warmer climes, these birds reside in and around the Demilitarized Zone until March.
The 260-kilometer space between the two Koreas has created a vast, largely untouched no man’s land where nature has been allowed to flourish.
The Imjingang River, which doesn't freeze throughout the year provides abundant food from marsh snails to fish.

"For cranes, the Demilitarized Zone is ironically a habitat gifted by nature. As cranes are big, they are easily exposed, making them more sensitive than other birds. This unique place, not found in any other part of the world, has a big role in the ecosystem."

However, the birds are seeing their habitats shrink.
Once a popular sanctuary the upper stream of the Imjingang River invites just a few birds now due to dams holding the water, eventually causing the river to freeze.

"The habitat for the red crowned cranes symbolizes healthy wetlands and streams. If these birds can't live in a place, it means it's been severely destroyed. If we don't protect the cranes, hundreds of other living things in the same ecosystem will be threatened as well.

Experts call for a nationwide effort along with international cooperation to protect the paths of these cranes.
Without active preservation, they warn the next generation will only be able to learn about the majestic birds in museums.
Choi Jeong-yoon, Arirang News.
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