He's helped tranquilize tigers and has taken skin samples from whales. On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin took off on his latest project in species protection, teaching endangered Siberian cranes how to migrate.
Putin piloted an ultralight aircraft over the Arctic Yamal Peninsula, trying to train the cranes to follow the ultralight from the Kushevat ornithological station and sanctuary where they have been raised to a wintering ground set up for them in southern Uzbekistan, more than 2,000 miles away, RIA-Novosti reported.
The ultralight guidance is necessary because no cranes have made the trip before, so they can't lead the way.
The new wintering ground was set up because a trip to the birds' traditional wintering grounds in India has become hazardous because of poaching in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Kremlin said in a statement, according to the Moscow Times.
Photos: How Putin cultivated his populist image
Putin made three flights Wednesday, the first to familiarize himself with the ultralight and the second and third with the birds. One bird followed Putin in the first test, and five followed in the second, according to RIA-Novosti. But only two of the five were able to keep up with Putin during the 15-minute flight.
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As Zeltweg, Austria, prepares to host this weekend's Airpower 2011 show, a sort of international tent sale of military aircraft, organizers are worried about the danger posed by storks.
Officials tried luring the birds to another area by offering tasty food and posting decoy storks, but that didn't work, Austrian Times reported.
So, with time running out, an elite team of Austrian soldiers has been brought in to deal with the problem - not by shooting at the birds, but by staring at them.
"The troops have been observing the area and finding out where the storks seem to like to go to feed," local environmentalist Siegfried Prinz told Austrian Times. "They then turn up and engage them in eye contact."
Apparently, that's unnerving enough to prompt a stork to fly the coop.
"Being stared at actually intimidates the storks more than the sound of a gun or other explosive devices," Prinz said.
Aviation safety experts were to make the final call Wednesday on whether the birds had moved out of harm's way. The show, sponsored by the energy drink Red Bull, is expected to draw 300,000 spectators. It's not known if George Clooney planned to be among them.
The errant emperor penguin that showed up on a New Zealand beach a week ago appears to be feeling better after emergency treatment, New Zealand media report.
The lost Antarctic bird, the first seen in New Zealand in 43 years, had shown "feisty" behavior and eaten fish after veterinarians and a physician at the Wellington Zoo flushed more than 5 pounds of sand and sticks from its belly, TVNZ reported.
"Every day he survives, we have more confidence," Mauritz Basson, the zoo's general manager for operations, told TV One on Tuesday morning.
Although Basson used a masculine pronoun, the penguin's sex is not known.
"They do use ice to cool themselves down," Basson said by way of explaining the sand in the bird's belly. "I think he was probably trying to cool down sitting on Peka Peka Beach, which is slightly warmer than Antarctica this time of year.
"He consumed the sand, which didn't melt, didn't cool him down, so he ate it until he was full and he deteriorated quickly from there."
Experts are debating what to do next if the bird recovers. For now, it's being kept alone in a cold room with a blanket of ice on the floor. Keepers are reluctant to move it into a population for fear of spreading some undetected disease.
One such expert, John Cockrem, suggest releasing the penguin into the sea, point it toward Antarctica and let it find its own way home if it can.
"The bird had swum here naturally and in spring the juveniles would normally turn around and head south," he told TVNZ. "So if the bird is back in the water it can make its own way south as it would have normally done."
The lonely emperor penguin that showed up on a New Zealand beach last week is critically ill from eating sand and sticks, veterinarians told TVNZ.
The 60-pound flightless bird, nicknamed "Happy Feet" by the New Zealand media, has undergone two surgical procedures since being taken to the Wellington Zoo on Friday, TVNZ reported.
The penguin, the first of its kind seen in New Zealand in 44 years, had a 50-50 chance of surviving when it arrived at the zoo, spokeswoman Kate Baker told the New Zealand Herald.
Penguins will eat snow and ice to cool off, and that's what "Happy Feet" may have been trying to do, Colin Miskelly, terrestrial vertebrates curator at New Zealand's national museum, told TVNZ.
Conservation officials are reluctant to place "Happy Feet" with other penguins in a zoo or return it to the wild in Antarctica for fear of spreading disease, according to the Herald.
Mal Hackett, penguin keeper at the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, thinks the bird swam 2,000 miles from its Antarctic home because it was already sick, and she isn't optimistic about the outcome.
"I don't like his chances," she told the New Zealand Press Association. "It is a very long way from home and isn't going to return."
Manukura is a white variant, not an albino, a ranger said. The bird was hatched earlier this month.
New Zealand's national wildlife center is crowing about the appearance of Manukura, the only all-white kiwi chick among this year's large brood of 14.
The white bird hatched on May 1 at Pukaha Mount Bruce wildlife center, the highlight of the most successful breeding season since kiwi were reintroduced into the wild there in 2003, according to the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
"As far as we know, this is the first all-white chick to be hatched in captivity," Pukaha Mount Bruce Board Chairman Bob Francis said in a news release. FULL POST
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