KNUE Stork Ecology Research Center announced on October 5th, that from now on, they will not release storks to the wild due to the death of two storks. The head of the research center, professor Park Si-ryong, said, “The main cause of the storks’ death which were restored recently is electrocution by a telephone pole. If we proceed the release so that they can forage under these circumstances, the rest of the storks could also die. We will cease releasing storks for a certain period of time.”
As a natural monument (No. 199) and an endangered species level 1, the last indigenous stork remaining in Korea was shot by a poacher on 1971. After the shot, the natural propagation of storks stopped. However, KNUE imported a pair of baby storks from Russia in 1996 and started a restoration plan. The Stork Ecology Research Center succeeded to restore the population to about 170 storks ever since. Among those, 68 of them were passed on to Yesan Stork Park in Chungcheongnam-do. KNUE Stork Ecology Research Center presently possesses about 100 storks. Of these, 15 of them have been released back to the wild.
As mentioned above, the most crucial reason why the KNUE Stork Ecology Research Center declared the cease of releasing the birds is because of death from electric shock by telephone poles. Last August, Taehwangi (coded K0012) died from an electric shock while landing on a telephone pole. On October 1st, Minhwangi (coded K0003) was also killed by electrocution. Both birds were released from Yesan Stork Park. The problem is that the distance between telephone poles are too narrow for a stork to sit on, so when a stork’s wings and legs touch a wire, electric shock can easily occur. A stork’s single wing is usually at least 1m in length, so the possibility of electric shock is much bigger than for other small birds.
Professor Park suggested a solution, which is to build “an assistant perch” above the telephone pole like Germany and Japan did. An assistant perch is made of insulators where the storks can sit on and rest without a danger of being killed by electricity. Nevertheless, to make the safest habitat for the storks is to get rid of the poles and construct an underground earthed wire. Unfortunately, due to financial issues, Yesan couldn’t afford the business. In contrast, the government of Suncheon City in Jeollanam-do, has removed 282 telephone poles in 2009 for the safety of hooded cranes, which is their city’s symbol. Professor Park urged that the city should create a suitable habitat for the storks to live in peacefully, but the reality is not that easy.
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