Crane Drain

Though all birds are gifted with a share of grace, only the crane, with its stately neck and stirring wings, can claim royal bloodlines. In ancient China, Prince Yi of Wie gave cranes the rank of civil servants and generals, while in Japan they were considered sages and became the symbol of peace in the aftermath of war. Australian Aborigines patterned tribal rituals after the cranes' elegant dances, and in India they are considered the holy messengers of Vishnu; they are the birds of heaven.

Like many beautiful things, however, cranes are delicate—and they are dying. In...

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