Izumi Municipal Sho Middle School
2008winners environmental conservation
The entire school has continued activities to count cranes and keep official records of the crane population for half a century
Izumi Municipal Sho Middle School

Izumi City, Kagoshima Pref.

Award summary

Sho Junior High School began monitoring crane numbers in 1960. Initially, students voluntarily joined local volunteers who put out a call for assistance, but the school took over operations in 1966 and the Sho Junior High School Crane Club was formally launched.縲」・p>

The students count cranes on Saturday mornings between November and January-a total of six times. But nature is unpredictable, and weather conditions and the birds' flying quirks mean that the surveys do not always go as planned.

Just before six o'clock, all of the school's students and staff meet at the crane observation center located 2.4 kilometers from the school. There they are divided into groups and head to four observation points. Armed with counters, they wait silently for dawn, whereupon they begin their tally. Students form teams that are charged with counting the numbers of cranes that have left, returned and remained. To ensure they get it right, students practice using their counters at school the day before by using video footage of cranes taking flight.

The cranes mainly consist of hooded cranes (grus monacha), but it is not uncommon to see other species as well, such as white-naped cranes (grus vipio). Students say they are able to tell the cranes apart from ducks and crows because they fly differently.

In 1960, there were a mere 438 cranes counted; in 2008, 12,028. The record high number was the 13,521 counted in 2000. While the cranes are thriving, Sho Junior High School students are becoming an endangered species. Numbers are dwindling; this year there were only nineteen current students who could take part in the survey. They were joined by eleven staff and around ten alumni (now moved on to senior high school).

Indeed, the monitoring survey has been reinforced by students from neighboring Takaono Junior High School since 1997. The two schools' totals are combined to form the Kagoshima Prefecture Crane Conservation Society's official crane tally.

Reasons for this award

Half a century has passed since locals first decided to launch student-led action to help protect the cranes that fly to Kagoshima in winter each year by keeping records of their numbers. While there are other cases of similar surveys, the Sho Junior High School effort is a conspicuously large-scale affair. Over the decades, crane numbers have risen significantly, and the study has expanded to incorporate neighboring Takaono Junior High School. Making the survey a school-wide activity has not only seen it become akin to a right of passage handed down from senior students to juniors, it also makes the study a valuable tool in learning about environmental issues and cultivating students' aesthetic sensitivities.

Comments from the winner

We were astounded to receive a phone call on the first day of the last term of the year informing us that we had won the Citizen of the Year Award. We are all grateful to the reporters who have kept our efforts in the papers, and to the many, many people who have participated in and helped out with the activities of the Sho Junior High School Crane Club since 1966.

redouble our efforts to document crane numbers, family structure and distribution.