Protecting Our National Bird and Other African Crane Species

JULY 27, 2018

South Africa’s national bird is currently listed as vulnerable on the Red List of Threatened Species. According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), population of the Blue Crane has halved since the 1970s. With support from the Ford Wildlife Foundation (FWF), however, conservation efforts by the EWT are turning the tide.

Here are some interesting facts about these majestic birds:

  1. South Africa is home to three species of crane: the Blue Crane, the Grey Crowned Crane, and the Wattled Crane, all of which are threatened.
  2. The Blue Crane is South Africa’s national bird and almost exclusively endemic to South Africa, with a small number of birds (20 - 25) found in Namibia.
  3. Uganda’s national bird, the Grey Crowned Crane, is the most ancient species of crane, and also the fastest declining crane species in the world. South Africa is the only country with a stable and increasing population.
  4. At a height of up to 175cm, the Wattled Crane is Africa’s largest crane, and the second largest in the world. Due to loss of wetlands, the species is critically endangered in South Africa.
  5. The oldest known living crane is 83 years old. Crane fossils date back more than 10-million years.
  6. Cranes depend on grasslands and wetlands for survival, which are two of South Africa’s most threatened habitat types. Only two per cent of our grasslands are conserved, and more than 50 per cent of our wetlands have been lost.
  7. We lose roughly 10 - 12 per cent of our Blue Crane population annually in the Western Cape due to collisions with overhead powerlines.
  8. Poisoning is also a serious threat to cranes. It occurs either as a result of direct poisoning of the birds due to suspected crop damage, or unintentional poisoning during the hunting / poaching of other species.
  9. Although cranes are sometimes blamed for crop damage, they can be beneficial to farmers as they eat insects and weed seeds found near crops.
  10. The private ownership of cranes is considered a sign of prestige in various countries, and has led to a black market trade in the birds. The impact of this trade on South Africa’s cranes is greater than that of the trade in rhino horn.

The EWT’s African Crane Conservation Programme, a partnership with the International Crane Foundation (ICF), is working to halt the decline of South Africa’s cranes. Their efforts have already yielded results, with the population of all three crane species not only

stabilising, but showing an increase. The Grey Crowned Crane population in KZN has grown by an astounding 44 per cent over the past decade.

The FWF recently sponsored the EWT with a new Ranger 4x4 to transport team members and equipment over the large distances that the project demands.

“Ford is supporting the African Cranes Conservation project as they are not only working to help the threatened crane species in South Africa, but they are working on the ecological integrity of the land,” says Lynda du Plessis, FWF Manager. “This conservation of wetlands and grasslands is vital for people as well as cranes.”

“Our team is dedicated to the conservation of some incredibly unique and important parts of our country. We have to travel large distances, and this partnership with Ford is invaluable in allowing us to do our work,” says Tanya Smith, EWT/ICF Partnership South African Regional Manager.

Contact Franchisee Evann van Rensburg
East Rand contact number 083 226 5607
East Rand email address