A fallen trunk, Rada Surmach strained to listen to the mournful echo of nesting owls, deep within the Tunsha River Valley of the Russian Far East. In the twilight she finally heard it The duet of the Blakiston’s fish owl a species whose six-foot wingspan makes it the world’s biggest owl. These haunting duets rare among owl species reinforce pair bonds. It’s as if the male is looking bent his mate, I’m here to which the feminine responds during a lower tone.

Perched high within the forest canopy, fish owl pairs perform a four-note duet of synchronized calls which will last up to 2 hours. These raptors are known for his or her intense yellow eyes and showy ear tufts, nest in cavities of old growth trees among the wooded river valleys of the Russian Far East, where boreal and temperate rainforests meet the ocean of Japan and therefore the Sea of Okhotsk. Named after 19th-century English naturalist Thomas W. Blakiston, the owl is split into two subspecies: Bubo Blakiston berries, found on the Russian mainland and certain northeastern China, and Bubo Blakiston Blakiston, which in Hokkaido, Japan, Russia’s southern Kuril Islands. Take our poll and pick your favorite superb owl.

In Hokkaido, people put out food for the Blakiston’s fish owls and manage their populations; in Primorye Province, the mated pairs that remain fewer than 200 are truly wild. the worldwide population of the owls is estimated at 1,000 to 1,900 individuals. He adds that logging prohibitions in high-status protected areas setting quotas for timber, and satellite monitoring of logging activities have helped protect the critically endangered Amur leopard, which only numbers around 100 wild animals.

Svetlana Soutyrina, the director of Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve, Primorye’s largest protected area, says her reserve has greater control over illegal timber trafficking and poaching in recent years. and therefore the involvement of nonprofits like the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF Russia, and therefore the Amur Tiger Center have improved conditions for the region’s wildlife including the fish owl.

Though it’s still years away, Rada Surmach and colleagues hope to launch a captive breeding program for the owl. that would create an insurance population of animals that would be someday released into the wild. In 2018, the Moscow Zoo launched a Blakiston’s fish owl breeding program, which currently is formed from two B. b. Blakiston females, one in Moscow and another at the Sakhalin Island Zoo.

 The King 

Such efforts don’t just benefit fish owls. Habitat that is still wild enough to support the bird is more likely to satisfy the requirements of countless creatures, including yellow-throated martens, red deer, bruin, moose, Eurasian lynx, and lots of more, conservationists say. Here’s what we lose when a species goes extinct.

Primorye may be a place where there’s still wilderness says, Slaght. There’s something worth protecting, and it is often done. Recalling her first encounter with fish owls within the wild, Rada Surmach says, was like discovering fresh tiger footprints within the snow.

You realize that you simply aren’t alone during this forest. There are wild creatures around you, she says. It’s their forest, and they’re the king here. Rada Sumach, a Ph.D. candidate and researcher at the Federal Scientific Center of the East Asia Terrestrial Biodiversity in Vladivostok, has created a long-term conservation decision to reintroduce captive-bred fish owls to the Land of the Leopard Park in southern Primorye, a comparatively developed region where the fish owl once lived.

Sumach believes that the impressive bird of prey has potential as a flagship species for raising public awareness almost like the role played by the Siberian tiger or Amur tiger. Every time I explain this is often the most important owl and it lives in our forest she says, people get really excited.

Shifting Seasons, Destructive Storms

Fish owls face two main threats Habitat loss and therefore the effects of global climate change. True to their names, fish owls search for salmon, trout, and lamprey in icy rivers during the winter. Come springtime, the male fish owl adds amphibians to the menu to feed his mate and their single fluffy hatchling.

A changing climate could shift spring’s arrival, causing frogs to emerge too early or too late to sustain hungry fish owl chicks, says wildlife biologist Jonathan C. Slaght, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia and Northeast Asia coordinator. The results of such a shift—called a trophic mismatch could be catastrophic, starving owlets to death and contributing to an eventual population decline, says Slaght, who published the book Owls of the Eastern Ice: a search to seek out and Save the World’s Largest Owl in 2020 with the hopes of raising public interest during this unique owl.

As sea surface temperatures rise within the northwestern Pacific, increasingly destructive storms and typhoons have also battered Primorye in recent years another potential threat to the owl’s nesting sites and habitat, Slaght says. In 2016, Typhoon Lionrock caused massive damage to old-growth forests, smashing gigantic Manchurian elms, willows, and Korean pines, leaving nothing but washed-out gravel along the riverbank.

Bumps Within The Road

Today, far and away the best problem for Primorye’s fish owls are logging roads, consistent with Slaght. These roads are legally built, but since the 1980s, the amount of roads has grown quite 17-fold. Although fish owls mostly nest in tall, dead trees of no commercial value, logging roads allow people like poachers, illegal loggers, and pignolia collectors access to more remote parts of the forest. Read why birds matter, and are worth protecting.

Such intruders can pose a significant threat to fish owls and other species, as an example by hitting animals with their vehicles or causing accidental wildfires. loggers often level old-growth trees favored by nesting fish owls to create impromptu bridges through the forest. To encourage logging companies to seek out other alternatives, Slaght and Sergey Surmach Rada Surmach’s father, who has studied fish owls for 3 decades completed a five-year study on fish owl habitat in 2010.

The scientists advised logging companies to steer beyond certain old-growth tree species, like elm chose and Japanese poplar, and instead harvest more common trees not employed by fish owls like Dahurian larch and aspen. They also urged logging operations to dam unused roads with berms to stay out illegal loggers and poachers. albeit the roads aren’t blocked permanently, such closures give wildlife a reprieve, says Slaght.TerneyLes, the most important logging company operating in Primorye, didn’t answer two email requests for comment about its role in owl conservation.

Walk On The Wild Side

On the positive side, conservationists say Primorye has already protected about 10.8 million square miles or 17 percent, of its total landmass, either in federal or local preserves. Just within the last 15 years, the province has established four new protected areas totaling about 6,100 square miles. The province’s government also features a long history of environmental stewardship and collaboration with conservationists, particularly about Siberian tigers and Amur leopards, says Victor Bardyuk, director of the Land of Leopard park. The preservation of those animals, including Blakiston’s fish owl, maybe a vivid example of people’s attitude to nature and therefore the effective work of the state to preserve it, Bardyuk says. Take a glance inside Russia’s wildest nature reserves.