September 6th, 2012
10:38 AM ET

'Fly away dohm': Russia's Putin shows endangered cranes the way

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.

After the test, the Russian leader gushed about the cranes under his tutelage.

“I feel great relief because everything has come off so well,” RIA Novosti quoted him as saying. “The birdies did a great job.”

The birds also will have a lot of work to do. They need to complete about 750 miles worth of training with the ultralight before attempting the 2,000-mile trip to Uzbekistan, RIA Novosti reported.

Putin has some flight training ahead, too. He has 17 hours experience as a pilot and needs eight more to become a certified pilot, senior pilot Igor Nikitin told RIA-Novosti.

Video of Putin's flight was posted on YouTube.

Of course, if the flamboyant Putin has any ideas of making a feature-length film of his adventures, it's been done.

The 1996 film "Fly Away Home," starring Jeff Daniels, told the story of William Lishman, who taught Canadian geese to follow him around his home and then later guided them from Ontario to Virginia.

Lishman's work has resulted in Operation Migration, an organization that uses the tactic to establish crane migration routes in North America.

While Putin might not have a feature film in his future, he's got a few fans of his swashbuckling in international diplomatic circles.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the Sultan of Brunei on Thursday if he'd been keeping up with Putin.

"Did you see the story today about President Putin dressing up like a bird? In a hang glider," Clinton asked the sultan at a dinner during her visit to Brunei.

"Really?" the sultan replies.

"He was pretending to be a mother red crane leading the cranes," Clinton says.

"He is quite a character," the sultan says.

To which Clinton replies, "He is, he is indeed."

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Filed under: Animals • Aviation • Birds • Russia
soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. rob breisch

    Bravo to him! Id like to see Mitt Romney up there-except he would be shooting at the birds instead of leading them to safety-or trying to teach them how to abandon their young so they could save on health care costs............

    September 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Person of Interest

      Seriously, Mittens is an idiot but comparing him to Putin and saying Putin is better is a bit rediculous. Shows how far down American's have fallen. Putin cares more for these birds than he does for people and comments like yours don't lead to constructive ideas or conversations. Congrats.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • karla smith

      rob, you're a damned idiot. romney has better things to do than fly with birds! putin is rich while his people have to ration their electricity! your nit witness amazes me, rob.

      September 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sergey

      Thank you, karla, that you care so much about Russian people. But I have a question: where do you get your information about Russia? Ration of electricity is most stupid thing that I ever heard about Russia.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Pnm9pnm

    When when ? Putin if there an there is a wold leder that only u vote or no vote yes I care an so do u yet justly.pnm9pnm out lawned from posting on so called CNN yet u rule I see that right right? Yet how?pnm.

    September 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pnm9pnm

    Ok 1 tear with my eye that can't come out yet pnm.

    September 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Flyer

    It's no novel, what Mr. Puttin tries to do: The late Angelo d'Arrigo has sucessfuly guided cranes from Sebiria to the winter quarters many years ago.

    September 11, 2012 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. karla smith

    meanwhile the guy steals elections and leaves his people in poverty while he gets richer. woo hoo!!

    September 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ri

    What? I can't deliver my military helicopters to Syria? Somebody quick, I need to look humane.

    September 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Justine Smith

    One more publicity stunt by Mr Macho. Yuck.

    September 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wierd

    Kinda of weird..why is the real pilot's face covered but not Putin's?...there must be at least 3 camera facing Putin for just a few minutes of flight?

    September 13, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
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