| To save these flagship birds from extinction and promote the conservation of wetlands for future generations, ICF and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) launched the African Wattled Crane Program (AWAC): Water and wetlands for the welfare of people and Wattled Cranes. AWAC’s mission is to conserve Wattled Cranes and their habitats by promoting cooperation in and among African nations in partnership with people who depend on these same habitats. Our long-term vision is healthy wetlands for the co-existence of cranes and people in Africa.
The AWAC mission is being achieved through conservation programs that include research, management, capacity building, and education and awareness in each country that supports Wattled Cranes.
The goals for the research program are to understand the status, ecological requirements, distribution and threats to Wattled Cranes throughout their range, and to understand the economic uses and socio-cultural values of wetlands where cranes occur. We are undertaking a comprehensive research program of aerial surveys, ground surveys, questionnaires, and interviews throughout the range of Wattled Cranes to assess the status and distribution of Wattled Cranes through their range in southern Africa and identify the main threats to Wattled Cranes and their critical habitats. We are also investigating different factors affecting Wattled Crane distribution and abundance at specific case-study sites, including the Kafue Flats in Zambia and Okavango Delta in Botswana, and evaluating how conservation efforts targeting the Wattled Crane as a flagship species can promote overall biodiversity conservation in southern Africa, especially for endangered but lesser-known species.
We also seek to develop and implement management strategies for cranes and wetlands in partnership with stakeholders, based on applied research. We are undertaking conservation planning for Wattled Cranes and wetlands, including strategic plans for each range country and a global action plan for the species. We will conduct a Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) for the Wattled Crane, generating valuable information about future population projections, sensitivity to threats, and opportunities for conservation.
To promote capacity building, our goal is to develop a dynamic network of people to take a leadership role in sharing and disseminating expertise and experience to fulfill the AWAC mission. We promote meaningful capacity development in each range country by engaging local partners in all aspects of project design and implementation, including writing grants, planning project activities, establishing field methods, undertaking field research and data analysis, writing project reports, and publishing findings. To facilitate this process each year we hold a regional meeting and training forum, where participants from all range countries present the goals, strategies, and achievements for their projects and share their field work experiences with others. The first strategy meeting was held at the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve in South Africa in 2001, in combination with a training course at the Gold Fields Environmental Education Center. The second meeting was held in July 2002 at Lochinvar National Park in the Kafue Flats of Zambia, and provided training in aerial survey and nest survey techniques to partners from throughout the region. In August 2003 we held the first official AWAC Steering Committee meeting in Maun, Botswana, in conjunction with the Botswana Wattled Crane Species Action Plan workshop hosted by BirdLife International. For 2004, we are organizing a training program with BirdLife International that will enable AWAC participants to develop firm foundations for managing country programs, with training in compiling business plans, budgeting and audits, financial planning, project structuring, grant writing, human resource planning, and other topics. We also support a number of colleagues from the region to undertake advanced degrees and training opportunities through University programs such as the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town and the Gaylord Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Finally, we also seek to identify and communicate avenues for improving education and awareness for Wattled Crane and wetland conservation in each range country. We are working with the Umgeni Environmental Education Center to obtain advice from a regional perspective on what works and does work with regard to environmental education, and assessing the availability of environmental educations in the various Wattled Crane range states.