The curious collection of a slightly mad scientist
Putin ‘saves TV crew from tiger attack’ Russian prime minister reportedly tranquilises Amur tiger to rescue television crew in Far East
He has shot a grey whale with a sample-collecting dart in the Pacific, released leopards in the Caucasus and “saved journalists from wild tigers”, now Vladimir Putin’s latest episode of animal antics takes him into the Siberian skies as a surrogate parent leading a flock of endangered cranes.
The stunt-prone Russian president will personally pilot a motorised hang-glider during a stopover in the far north of the country this week on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum in Vladivostok.
There are only 20 Siberian white cranes left in the world. Putin will lead a group of the birds on the first leg of their 5,000km migration and, if all goes to plan, they will spend the winter in central Asia.
Putin will have to don white overalls and a special beak to be recognised by the cranes, Yuri Markin, an ornithologist and director of the Oksk Nature Reserve, where the young birds were raised, told the RBC news website.
Six months into his third presidential term and a month from his 60th birthday, Putin has cultivated an image as an animal lover during his time at the top of Russian politics and has even been given a tiger cub as a birthday present.
During a televised phone-in last year, when he was prime minister, a viewer asked Putin why he looked more comfortable with tigers and leopards than with his own ministers. “The more I know people, the more I like dogs,” Putin replied, paraphrasing the greek philosopher Diogenes. “I simply like animals.”
But observers will be watching the latest stunt carefully for any signs of a set up. There was widespread disbelief in 2008 when Putin appeared to save a television crew from a rare Amur tiger in far eastern Russia by shooting it with a tranquilliser gun.
And even the Kremlin’s press service was forced to admit last year that footage and photographs of Putin striding away from a dive in the Black Sea having recovered Greek amphorae was planned in advance, with the jars having been planted on the sea floor.
Putin has been undergoing special training to be able to fly the motorised hang-glider and will take part in the “Flight of that begins in the Yamal district of northern Russia Hope “as long as the weather is favourable, his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper on Wednesday.
After helping the birds on their way, Putin will take a more conventional plane on Friday to Vladivostok, where he will greet heads of state from around Asia and the Pacific at the annual Apec summit, which Russia is hosting. …