Is it a bird, a plane? No, it's Putin, human crane

Wed Sep 5, 2012 5:20pm EDT
 
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By Gabriela Baczynska

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has tracked a Siberian tiger and posed with a polar bear, on Wednesday took his love of wildlife to new heights by flying with cranes - to lead them on a migration route.

Putin has communed with wild animals several times as part of an effort to create the image of a clean-living, nature-loving person during his 12 years as Russia's paramount leader.

This time around, he donned a baggy white costume with a spacious helmet and goggles and flew in a motorized deltaplane light aircraft surrounded by several young cranes that were born in captivity, in order to help introduce them to the wild.

"They got used to it. They are not afraid, they are overtaking the deltaplane," a smiling Putin said after landing, as shown on broadcaster Rossiya 24.

"They are overtaking, approaching the wing from the left, from the right, from above. Well done. Beautiful guys. Cute. They are three months old but already quite big."

The exercise in the Yamal peninsula was aimed at prompting the birds to follow the plane and hence prepare them for their migration route - part of the "Flight of Hope" project to protect the endangered, white Siberian Crane.

Visibly pleased, Putin said it had been his idea to fly the deltaplane, although it appeared to be steered most of the time by another person in a similar white costume sitting behind him.

TROUBLED ALPHA-CRANE   Continued...

 
Vladimir Putin (R) assists in polar bear research during his visit to Alexandra Land on Franz Josef Land in the far north of Russia in the Barents Sea April 29, 2010. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Nikolsky