IMPRINTING

On his way to the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Vladivostok the Russian President had a stop-over in the Yamal Peninsula to teach endangered cranes, which had been raised in captivity, to follow a motorized hang glider in the cranes’ future migration to Central Asia. The idea of teaching birds this way is not new: it has been used by the American ornithologists for about a decade and is based on the so-called “imprinting”: while starting looking for their mother, newly-born birds accept as a parent anything that moves (the moving thing may even be an inanimate object). The phenomenon was studied by the Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz who in 1973 received the Nobel Prize for his research.  Speaking frankly, I think Konrad Lorenz should have shared his award with my fellow villagers where I grew as a child: the villagers didn’t know the term “imprinting” but they used to put ducks’ eggs in a hen’s nest for the hen to hatch the eggs and to lead the brood of ducklings until they mature.

I don’t think Mr. Putin’s action will contribute significantly to the protection of the Siberian white cranes which he is going to save. Within the last ten years the population of white cranes has increased only from 10 to 20 birds. But the PR event will imprint on the minds of an average Russian an image of a “moving” leader to be followed. As for the cranes… Looking at the President, who sitting in the hang glider dressed in white and rigged out in a pilot’s gear, one hardly thinks of cranes.  

At the exhibition of the Russian non-conformists in 1975 in Moscow, some artists, representing the so-called “sots-art”, pretended they were birds and kept sitting in a “nest” for a few days shocking the visitors. As we see, what was “non-conformist” in the Soviet Union, has become an esthetic value in present-day Russia.

Some state leaders participating in the APEC summit are going to persuade Vladimir Putin not to veto the decision of the UN Security Council to take actions to stop the bloodshed in Syria. The Russian President has a more important topic to consider in Vladivostok: he will be discussing with the Chinese leader how to arrange a natural reserve for leopards in the Far East. In this regard the tragedy of the nuclear submarine KURSK in the year 2000 is being brought to my mind. While the disaster played out in the Barents Sea, then President Vladimir Putin, suntanned in subtropical Sochi, continued his rest there. Later he said: “…From a PR point of view I should have demonstrated some special eagerness to return (from Sochi).” As may be seen with the cranes, Mr. Putin is learning the lesson of KURSK (see the last picture posted). 

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