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Endangered Wildlife. Corncrake
The large coat of arms of the Republic of Latvia, with the year 1996 inscribed below, is placed in the centre. The inscriptions LATVIJAS and REPUBLIKA, each arranged in a semicircle, are above and beneath the central motif, respectively.
A picture of a corncrake, with the numeral 10 and inscription LATU beneath it, is centered on the coin. The inscription APDRAUDETA FAUNA (endangered wildlife) is placed in a semicircle to the left of the picture, the inscription GRIEZE (corncrake) is placed horizontally to the right of the picture.
Two inscriptions LATVIJAS BANKA (Bank of Latvia), separated by three stars.
Europe is sometimes called the cradle of modern civilisation. Here the changes brought by man upon nature have a thousand-year long history. Latvia is no exception: a large part of present-day landscape - almost all of the territory suitable for agriculture - is man-made. Cultivation of land has in fact contributed to the expansion of a number of bird and animal species into new habitats; human activities have prevented the meadows from overgrowing with forest while having a negligible effect on the survival of birds.
Meadows are the usual habitat for the corncrake, discreet bird with a distinctive call. It is very difficult to spot because it does not fly: from a chance encounter a corncrake will furtively sneak away under the cover of grass. Farmers knew and loved this bird, and if they found a corncrake's nest when cutting grass, they left it undisturbed.
The main danger to corncrake comes from modern 20th-century methods of mowing. Machinery cannot circle nests without touching them and birds are trapped in an island of grass and cut. The bird's habit to sit tight till the last moment before attempting to escape has caused it much harm. Unlike the earlier practice of hand-scything, modern technologies do not spare the bird, and much of the population is extinct. The widespread shift from hay to silage as the principal source of winter forage for livestock means that fields are fertilised and mown twice a year. This eliminates suitable conditions for breeding and hatching.
The number of corncrakes has steadily declined in Europe; moreover, in the period from 1960 to 1980 their population decreased to less than a half. The situation in Latvia was not quite as grave; nevertheless, by late 1980s the number of corncrakes was smaller than ever before. In 1994, the international organisation BirdLife International that seeks to rescue endangered bird species included the corncrake in the list of species considered to be in danger of worldwide extinction.