International Crane Foundation

 

Country Projects and Partners

Africa: > Country Projects and Partners

Angola
Angola holds perhaps the greatest mystery for Wattled Crane research and conservation in Africa. As we document significant declines in the population of cranes in Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, and irruptive flocks in different parts of the region during some years, the status and fate of cranes in Angola becomes increasingly important. Over the past two decades, opportunities for research and conservation planning in Angola have been severely limited because of prolonged civil war. Past estimates suggest about 500 cranes in the country, but it is conceivable that thousands more have emigrated from surrounding areas as breeding grounds–especially in Zambia—become too disturbed. Alternatively, the population in Angola may have suffered from hunting during the war and dwindled to few birds, a finding that would result in still a further downward revision to the global population estimate for Wattled Cranes.

There are four Important Bird Areas in Angola where Wattled Cranes are known to occur, including Cuelei along the Cubango River, Luando Strict Nature Reserve and Mupa National Park (where they are frequent and probably breed), and Mombolo (where they are uncommon residents but probably breed). In May 2003, John Mendelsohn of RAISON conducted aerial surveys over the Cuito and Cubango River systems of the Okavango River catchment, covering very extensive floodplains and dambos where Wattled Cranes historically occurred. Not a single crane was observed during the surveys, and waterbirds were virtually absent with the exception of about twenty Saddlebilled Storks, several herons, and about ten African Fish Eagles. Further surveys are needed to cover the IBA sites and floodplains that drain into western Zambia, but these preliminary observations suggest that Wattled Cranes and other wildlife may be substantially reduced in southern Angola.

Regardless of the size of the local Wattled Crane population in Angola, the country may well control the fate of Wattled Cranes throughout the region. Angola has the third largest water resources in Africa and generates seasonal floods that sustain important crane wetlands in the Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia. However, this runoff also holds tremendous potential for hydropower development – Angola has an estimated hydropower potential of 150,000 GWh/year, and as many as 150 hydro plants could be built. The government has long sought to develop hydropower on the Cunene River, and there is also good potential for hydropower and irrigated agriculture developments on the Cubango and Cuando Rivers and their tributaries. Large dams in Angola could ultimately threaten wetlands of the upper Zambezi, the Chobe swamps, Etosha Pan, and the especially the Okavango Delta. Although it is inevitable that Angola, as well as Botswana and Namibia, will use more water in the future, AWAC and other government and non-government organizations may have an important role in trying to minimize the social and ecological impact of future water development projects. One excellent model for this approach is the Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) that was formed in 1994 to promote the coordinated development of the Okavango River. We are now beginning a new collaboration with colleagues from the Núcleo Ambiental da Faculdade de Ciências, Museum of Natural History, the Ministry of Urban Affairs and Environment, and other organizations to develop strategies for promoting wetland and water resource conservation in post-war Angola. Antonio Nascimento of the Angolan League for the Protection of Birds and Department of Natural Resources (Ministry of Urban Affairs and Environment) is the AWAC steering committee representative for Angola.

Zebra
 
Botswana
The Okavango Delta of Botswana supports the largest concentration of Wattled Cranes in Africa, approximately 1200-1400 birds. This is not surprising in light of the fact that the vast Okavango Delta, and adjacent Makgadikgadi Pans, have long been considered among the most pristine and secure habitats of Wattled Cranes in Africa, with a relatively small human population and no major dams or diversion projects threatening the hydrological integrity of the system. In 2000, however, the Botswana Government announced a program to eradicate the tsetse fly from the Okavango Delta through widespread aerial spraying of the pesticide Deltamethrin. In response, the Birdlife Botswana Crane Working Group (BBCWG) was formed to monitor the effects of the spraying on Wattled Crane breeding success, as part of an overall Environmental Impact Assessment. In three short years, the BBCWG – now headed by Sekgowa Motsumi (Project Manager), Roger Hawker (Chairperson), and Pete Hancock (Secretary) – has grown to become one of the most effective conservation NGOs in Botswana. The group and its programs are supported by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF/SGP) under the United Nations Development Programme, the African Wildlife Foundation Four Corners Project, International Crane Foundation, Endangered Wildlife Trust, South African Crane Working Group, Department of Wildife and National Parks, the Botswana Wildlife Training Institute, Mulbridge Transport-Maun, and the Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre. Sekgowa Motsumi serves as Botswana representative for the AWAC Steering Committee.

The BBCWG recently completed three years of intensive aerial surveys during the Wattled Crane breeding season in an effort to determine the population size and trends, as well as the effects of tsetse spraying on the cranes. The Wattled Crane population in the Okavango Delta for 2003 is estimated at 1450 birds with the main distribution along the Jao and Boro River tributaries, Xigera, and Xaxaba. Although the 2003 population estimate is slightly higher than the estimate of 1205-1220 birds from 2002 and 2001, respectively, the difference is not statistically significant and the population is considered to be stable (the higher 2003 count is attributed to differences in strip width). The survey team also counted Saddlebill Storks, estimating the delta population at 1069 birds.

During the aerial surveys, the BBCWG mapped the number and distribution of breeding and non-breeding Wattled Cranes in the Okavango Delta, and recorded all known nest locations with GPS coordinates so that they could be monitored intensively in the field. Individual nests were then visited on the ground throughout September and October. Although the group hypothesized that the tsetse spraying would negatively effect Wattled Cranes in the Okavango Delta, predicting that eggs would not to hatch due to disturbance and chicks would not survive due to reduction in food supply, the limited nest survey results suggest that hatching rates were similar in the sprayed and unsprayed portions of the delta. The BBCWG concluded that tsetse eradication program was probably not a serious threat to the cranes, but noted also that natural mortality rates for chicks in the delta are very high. The monitoring also provides important baseline conditions that enable the BBWCG to evaluate the impact of other projects, such as the proposal by the Namibian Power Company, NamPower, to establish a hydroelectric scheme on the Okavango River at Popa Falls.

Recently, the Working Group successfully captured and ringed several Wattled Cranes, without harm to any birds, using a night-lighting technique. The capture was in preparation for a proposed PTT (satellite transmitter) study of crane movements within the Okavango and among key wetlands in the region. The Botswana Crane Working Group is also planning to conduct a variety of outreach activities with the communities of the Okavango Delta, in the belief that they have a valuable role to play in conserving the birds. They will interview local residents in different areas of the Delta to learn about traditional and current uses of the Delta and local attitudes towards Wattled Cranes. The Working Group is similarly encouraging local safari operators to monitor crane numbers and movements during their daily excursions in the Okavango Delta, and to record observations during their overflights of the Delta. In these ways, interested members of the public can make a contribution towards gathering valuable information about the cranes, and thereby contribute to their conservation. The Working Group will develop education materials that target these different key stakeholder groups towards raising awareness about wetlands, biodiversity, and water issues in the region. Research goals include assessing the breeding ecology, feeding ecology and habitat use, and movement patterns (local and regional) of Wattled Cranes, and relating movement, habitat use, breeding ecology to the hydrology of the Okavango Delta.

In August 2003, the BirdLife Botswana Crane Working Group hosted a three-day workshop to develop the first Botswana Wattled Crane Species Action Plan, immediately following the AWAC Steering Committee meeting. The workshop drew many stakeholders who are affected by and benefit from wetland and crane conservation in the Okavango Delta. The SAP outlines a comprehensive effort to conserve Botswana ‘s Wattled Crane population for the benefit of people and biodiversity. The implementation of the Botswana Wattled Crane SAP will commence on 1 January 2004 and will run until 2009.

WC_Flock
 
Botswana team
 
Democratic Republic Congo
Wattled Cranes occur on the plateau in Upemba National Park, Kundelungu National Park, and the Lufira valley in southeastern DR Congo. Over the past decade, protected areas in DR Congo have suffered from catastrophic poaching and severe institutional neglect, exacerbated by the prolonged civil war raging across the country. Despite these hardships, a ground survey of the region was commissioned in November 2002 in cooperation with the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the National Parks Relief Mission, and the Belgian NGO Nouvelles Approches. Funding was provided by the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, with field binoculars donated by members of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Chief Warden Faustin Batechi, who has been based in the region for more than a decade, is organizing the field surveys with his scouts. The surveys are focused on the Upemba and Kundelungu National Parks and Lufira floodplain, and include interviews with local communities to assess the status and threats of the Wattled Cranes population and long-term changes in the population. These are the first waterbird surveys in this region in more than 30 years, and observations and counts of other waterbirds of local or national concern are also being recorded. Preliminary reports suggest that Wattled Crane are nesting in small numbers in dambos on the high plateau of Upemba, but large flocks have not been observed in the Upemba swamps as expected. The Grey Crowned Crane (known locally as Owani) is more common in the region than the Wattled Crane. We are investigating the logistics and potential for conducting an aerial survey of inaccessible areas of the Upemba swamps through Michel Hasson of Nouvelles Approches. Because of the extremely difficult working conditions in DR Congo at present, an AWAC Steering Committee member has not yet been nominated for the country but we hope to identify a Congolese colleague for this position in the near future.

Wattled Crane
 
Lusinga Plateau
 
Ethiopia
A small, isolated population of about 150-200 Wattled Cranes occurs in the highlands of Ethiopia, more than 1700 km from the core population in south-central Africa. The Wattled Cranes of Ethiopia nest during the northern hemisphere rainy season that begins in March/April, in contrast to the remaining Wattled Cranes that breed primarily during the southern hemisphere rainy season that begins in November. The population is likely a distinct sub-species, and would be considered Critically Endangered.

During the national biodiversity inventory program of the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, Wattled Cranes were recorded at eleven different sites in Ethiopia, including Fogera Plains, Bahir Dar-Lake Tana, Finchaa and Chomen Swamps, Berga Floodplain, Dilu Meki (Tefki), Koffe Swamp, Boyo wetland, and Bale Mountains National Park, all designated Important Bird Areas. With ICF support, researcher Yilma Dellelegn Abebe undertook a follow-up study of the Wattled Cranes at Boyo wetland , and observed 62 Wattled Cranes in the agricultural fields surrounding Boyo Wetland on the southern Rift Valley escarpment. Yilma, who now works for the Ethiopia Wildlife and Natural History Survey, is the AWAC representative for Ethiopia. Recently, Yilma together with Rich Beilfuss (AWAC Chair), Gunter Nowald (Germany Crane Information Center), and Carl von Treuenfels (WWF-Germany) discovered the largest group of Wattled Cranes ever recorded in Ethiopia –107 birds including 51 pairs — at Boyo Wetland feeding on extensive beds of tubers of the spike rush Eleocharis. The presence of most of the birds in scattered pairs across the floodplain suggests that Boyo may be the main breeding grounds for Wattled Cranes in Ethiopia . Yilma is preparing to undertake further surveys at Boyo and also a survey of the Wattled Cranes in Bale Mountains National Park to estimate the number of breeding pairs and identify threats to the species. Future research will focus on the issue of Wattled Crane conservation as part of wider water resource and wetland conservation issues in Ethiopia, with emphasis on social and economic aspects of water management in the Ethiopian highlands. Gordon Andersson of the Audubon Society-USA (Minnesota Chapter) and Lufthansa Airlines provided valuable support for developing this project.

Ethopia
 
Malawi
Wattled Cranes (and Grey Crowned Cranes) were once common in Malawi, but now have a very restricted range. We are collaborating with the National Museums of Malawi, the Malawi Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the Malawi Ornithological Society to conduct Wattled Crane and Grey Crowned Crane surveys across Malawi. In 2002 and 2003, Mr. Potipar Kaliba of the Museum of Natural History (and AWAC Steering Committee representative for Malawi) led the first-ever nationwide surveys, with ground surveys in the Elephant Marsh, Ndinidi Marsh, Nyika Plateau, Vwaza, Kasungu, Lake Chilwa, and Zombo covering all of the historical range of Wattled Cranes in Malawi. The surveys confirm the decline of the species’ range and population across Malawi. There are probably less than 40 Wattled Cranes in Malawi today, down from more than 100 in the 1980s. Most of the remaining Wattled Cranes occur in Nyika National Park, where staff have monitored the breeding population for decades. Since Zimmerman counted 49 Wattled Cranes during an aerial census in 1969, the population at Nyika has been declining steadily. The 2003 survey team visited all previously recorded nesting sites at Nyika, and recorded only 2 pairs and 12 total birds. It is uncertain whether this represents a true decline or emigration of birds to the Nyika Plateau in Zambia. Although there appear to be few threats to adult birds at Nyika, nests are threatened by grassland fires that occur during the dry season each year.

At all sites, project partners will raise awareness about the plight of Wattled Cranes and importance of wetland management for biodiversity. The majority of the crane population in Malawi is confined to National Parks or Reserves. In the past the government took a leading role in the management of these natural resources and largely excluded neighboring communities. In recent years, however, there has been a shift in approach and the onus of the management of Malawi’s Natural Resources has been placed on local people through Community-Based Natural Resource Management, or CBNRM. Using the established network of village natural resource committees under the CBNRM program, our colleagues will disseminate information on Wattled Cranes and wetland management to local communities and stakeholders.

Wattled Crane Zykia
 
Vwaza
 
Mozambique
For the past eight years, we have worked closely with Carlos Bento of the Museum of Natural History towards the conservation and management of Wattled Cranes and their wetland habitats in Mozambique. Carlos recently completed his M.Sc., “The status and prospects of Wattled Cranes in the Marromeu Complex of the Zambezi Delta”, at the University of Cape Town under the supervision of Dr. Richard Beilfuss and Prof. Phil Hockey. Carlos Bento is the AWAC Steering Committee representative for Mozambique.

The Zambezi Delta in central Mozambique is a wetland system of profound international importance and home to many threatened and endangered species. Over the past century, the construction of large dams and dikes on the Zambezi River has greatly diminished the diversity and productivity of the delta. We studied the status and ecology of Wattled Cranes in the delta and the implications and strategies for the restoration of the lower Zambezi River system over the period 1999-2001. Project goals included determining the population structure and breeding success of Wattled Cranes in the Zambezi Delta, analyzing historical changes in the hydrology and ecology of the delta with respect to breeding success and habitat utilization of Wattled Cranes and other waterbird species, assessing the present density and distribution of large water bird species in the delta, identifying habitat preferences of Wattled Crane in the delta for nesting, feeding, and roosting, assessing the environmental attributes, both abiotic (e.g. hydrology, soils, water quality) and biotic (e.g. vegetation structure, food availability) of the main habitats utilized by Wattled Cranes, and making recommendations for improving habitat quality in the delta for the Wattled Cranes. The project is also part of the major ICF initiative, The sustainable management of the lower Zambezi Valley and Delta, Mozambique.

Our discovery of the breeding grounds of Wattled Cranes in the Zambezi Delta, through a combination of aerial and ground surveys, was a major breakthrough. The breeding grounds occur at the far-western edge of the delta, where perennial runoff from the escarpment that borders the delta provides seasonal flooding and high water table conditions throughout the year. These hydrological conditions support large beds of the sedge Eleocharis angulata, a species that produces underground tubers that are the major food source of Wattled Cranes. There are approximately 100 pairs of endangered Wattled Cranes, producing about 10 chicks per year on average, with a total population of about 300 birds. Across most of the delta, where hydrological conditions are unsuitable for tuber production, Wattled Cranes and many other waterbird species are absent. Based on these findings, the Wattled Crane appears to be an excellent flagship species for the ecological restoration of the delta. In September 2003, the Marromeu Complex of the Zambezi Delta was declared a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, the world’s foremost international agreement for the protection and wise use of wetlands. The World Wildlife Fund recognized the ratification and commitment to the Zambezi Delta as a "Gift to the Earth", WWF’s "highest accolade for a globally significant contribution to conservation".

The impact of hydrological changes on the Wattled Crane raises grave concerns not only about the survival of these endangered birds, but about the many species of waterbirds and other plants and animals that depend on the ebb and flow of the Zambezi River. This research has furthered our understanding of how large dams affect the distribution and breeding success of waterbirds and their habitats. The research is also contributing towards the establishment of sound water management practices for the restoration of waterbird habitat and recovery of flood-dependent species such as the Wattled Crane.

Recently, Carlos initiated an investigation of all historical, recent, and potential sites for the occurrence of Wattled Cranes in Mozambique. Carlos participated in aerial surveys over Banhine National Park in southern Mozambique, in cooperation with volunteer pilots of the Bateleurs. His team discovered three pairs of Wattled Cranes near the South African border, birds that may provide the “missing link” between the genetically isolated population of Wattled Cranes in South Africa and those in the floodplains and dambos of southcentral Africa. Carlos also observed Wattled Cranes in the São Sebasteão floodplain, Govuro floodplain, and Save River estuary in central Mozambique. With 12 remote sites remaining to be investigated, the total estimated population of Wattled Cranes in Mozambique is 355 birds.

Mozambique
 
Banhine Pan Crane
 
Eleccharis Dulcis
 
Namibia
Wattled Cranes are widely distributed in the wetlands of northern Namibia, with several distinct populations. There are fewer than 10 breeding pairs in the country, located in the Mahango Game Reserve/Western Caprivi Reserve section of the Okavango River and along the Linyanti River in Mamili National Park. These birds are thought to move onto the floodplains of the Zambezi and Cuando-Linyanti-Chobe Rivers during high flood periods. Hunting and livestock damage to wetlands appear to be the most important threats. During the wet season, large numbers of Wattled Cranes have been recorded on the ephemeral wetlands of the Bushmanland, Grootfontein, and Oshana regions. These may be important post-breeding dispersal areas for breeding birds in Angola, Botswana, and Zambia. To better understand these seasonal movements, we hope to support Namibian researchers with a ground census that is coordinated with surveys in surrounding countries. We also seek to better understand key threats to Wattled Cranes in Namibia, where chronic demands for water (Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa) effect both large river-floodplain systems and ephemeral wetlands. We are currently working with colleagues in Namibia to nominate an AWAC Steering Committee member and form an active working group. Mike and Ann Scott, who lead important conservation programs for the benefit of Blue Cranes in the Overberg, South Africa, have relocated to Namibia and are spearheading this effort.

Chobe Flood Plain
 
South Africa
Historically, Wattled Cranes were widespread in South Africa and occupied all four “old” provinces, extending as far south into the western parts of the Cape Province (Somerset West/Caledon). Wattled Cranes currently occupy a vastly restricted range within the eastern higher rainfall regions of the country, with concentrations in the Mpumalanga Highlands, and the midlands to southern parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Small numbers of breeding pairs are also still present within the Wakkerstroom region, the northeastern Free State as well as the northeastern regions of the Eastern Cape. Since the early 1980s, the South African Wattled Crane population has shown a 36 % decline from 360 individuals to the current population size of about 250 individuals. Extensive wetland degradation through damming and draining for agricultural purposes has severely affected the suitability of many of these breeding sites, with the result that only 81 active breeding pairs remain in the country. Slightly over 85% of this population is located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, making it the most important region in which wetland conservation efforts must be focused.

The South Africa Crane Working Group (SACWG), a working group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, undertakes a comprehensive research, monitoring, and information collection program. Kevin McCann (National Research Manager) and Kerryn Morrison (National Operations Manager) coordinate activities with the ten SACWG field officers and a host of volunteers. Kerryn Morrison also serves as AWAC Steering Committee representative for South Africa. Major SACWG programs include a National Crane Census, Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts and aerial surveys in key crane areas throughout South Africa, breeding productivity monitoring, crane home range and habitat analysis, crane movement studies, and genetics analysis. Their crane management program focuses on the management of key grassland and wetland habitats, the reduction of crane mortalities from powerline collisions, illegal capture from the wild and farm poisonings. Other management programs directed at this species include an extensive education and awareness program and a captive breeding and supplementation program, initiated in 1995. SACWC produces two newsletters, the biannual Crane Link, a traditional printed newsletter that is widely distributed in Southern Africa, and the Grus Grapevine, an interactive monthly e-newsletter.

WC Warwick
 
SACWG Team
 
Tanzania
The Malagarasi- Muyovozi complex, a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, supports the only viable population of Wattled Cranes (as well as Shoebills) remaining in Tanzania, approximately 200 birds. Other Wattled Crane sites in Tanzania have fared poorly in recent decades. The Usangu Plains, once an important area for Wattled Cranes, has been overrun by cattle during the breeding season and few birds remain. The Rukwa floodplains are permanently under water as a result of lake level increase. The Mufindi grasslands were widely planted with Pinus patula to the exclusion of Wattled Cranes. The resident breeding pairs at Ufipa were hunted out to such an extent that only a few birds (presumably moving between Zambia and Tanzania) now show up seasonally. To prevent a similar demise for the Wattled Cranes at Malagarasi- Muyovozi, we hope to collaborate with the Danida-supported Ramsar project team (Sustainable Integrated Management of Malagarasi-Muyowosi Ramsar Site, or SIMMORS), the Wildlife Department, and the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania to pro-actively address threats to the Wattled Cranes as they arise. We are currently working with colleagues to nominate an AWAC Steering Committee representative for Tanzania.

Overall, the major threat to Wattled Cranes in Tanzania appears to be the live bird trade. Tanzania is the second largest exporter of wild birds in the world, with devastating consequences for many species. Data obtained recently from CITES indicates that at least 63 Wattled Cranes were exported from Tanzania during the the last five years. Allowing for injuries and deaths during capture, handling, and transport, trade in this species may be effecting close to 40% of the population in Tanzania. We are working to raise awareness about the impact of trade on Wattled Cranes and upgrade the species from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I before they disappear from the wild in Tanzania and elsewhere.

Moyowosi
 
Zambia
The future of Wattled Cranes in Africa depends on Zambia. Zambia supports more than half of the global population of Wattled Cranes, including large breeding and flocking grounds in the Kafue Flats, Bangweulu Swamps, Busanga Swamps, and Liuwa Plain. Scattered breeding pairs are also widespread in dambos throughout the country. Zambia is a likely source for Wattled Cranes that appear seasonally or irruptively in neighboring countries such as Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, or Zimbabwe. Conversely, cranes that are disturbed from their territories in neighboring countries may depend at times on the vast floodplains of Zambia for their survival.

In 2000, we launched the Zambia Crane and Wetland Conservation Project in cooperation with the WWF-Zambia country office and the Zambia Wildlife Authority. Ben Kamweneshe, who has engaged in research and management for the conservation of Wattled Cranes and wetlands in this region for more than 15 years, is serving as full-time project manager. The overall goal of the project is to investigate the status and ecology of endangered Wattled Cranes in Zambia and promote the role of Wattled Cranes as a flagship species for sustainable water resources management and biodiversity conservation.

Over the past two years we conducted intensive aerial and ground surveys in some of the most important wetlands in Zambia, including the Lukanga Swamps and Liuwa Plain (neither of which had been surveyed in more than 30 years), Busanga Swamps, Barotse Plain, Bangweulu Swamps, Chambeshi River floodplain, and Kafue Flats. We supplemented these aerial surveys with ground surveys of other important crane areas in northern Zambia, and distributed questionnaires nationwide to solicit local information about the status and distribution of Wattled Cranes. Based on these surveys, we have significantly revised the Wattled Crane estimate for the key wetland areas in Zambia.

Kafue Flats: >1000
Bangweulu: >1000
Chambeshi floodplain: <300
Kasanka NP and surrounds: >20
Busanga Swamp and Kafue National Park: >150
Lukanga Swamp: <50
Liuwa plain: >550
Barotse Plain: >10
Scattered wetlands in Northern & Luapula Province: <500
Scattered wetlands in Western Province: <500
Southwest Zambia/Angola border: <200
Total: 4000-4500

Our discovery that the Wattled Crane population in Zambia has shrunk to only 4000-4500 birds from previous estimates of 11,000 (1985) and 7,000-8,000 (1994) has tremendous implications for biodiversity conservation in the entire region.

We are also undertaking field research on the ecology and management of Wattled Cranes, and the link between wetland management and biodiversity conservation on the Kafue Flats. The Kafue Flats is world-renowned for its abundant wildlife, including the endemic Kafue lechwe, zebra, wildebeest, Cape buffalo, kudu, hippo, and vast numbers of waterbirds. The Kafue Flats is also densely inhabited with subsistence farmers and fishers, whose livelihoods depend on the abundant resources of the floodplain. During the 1970s, the construction of Itezhitezhi and Kafue Gorge Dams on the Kafue River significantly altered flooding patterns in the Kafue Flats, desiccating the upper floodplain and permanently inundating the lower plain. These changes have not only adversely affected Wattled Cranes, but also the livelihoods of thousands of people living on the flats and the rich diversity of mammal and bird life that depend on this magnificent floodplain.

We are studying the foraging ecology and habitat selection of Wattled Cranes in the Kafue Flats. More than 1000 Wattled Cranes occur on the Kafue Flats, feeding in close association with Kafue lechwe at the flooded margin. These results will be linked with work analyzing hydrological conditions and long-term patterns of hydrological change, towards better understanding how the quality and quantity of breeding and foraging habitat has changed over time.

As the Zambian government now considers proposals for further development projects in the Kafue River system, a window of opportunity exists to use our research findings to influence government policy towards rehabilitating the Kafue Flats and meeting the needs of subsistence farmers and wildlife. The Zambia Crane and Wetland Project is working in partnership with WWF-Zambia, the Zambia Wildlife Authority, and other local and regional organizations to launch new conservation actions in the Kafue Flats. We will raise awareness about the social and ecological impacts of water management practices on the Kafue Flats, and find ways forward to improve the management of the flats for the benefit of people and wildlife. We will emulate and adapt ICF’s approach in Mozambique, in part through an emphasis on the Wattled Crane as a flagship species for wetland management and conservation.

WC Chikuni
 
Ben at Fishing
 
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has a small population of Wattled Cranes, approximately 180-200 birds. As in South Africa, Wattled Cranes establish year round territories in the highveld in open marshy grasslands and dambos. Historically, Wattled Cranes were found in the Nyanga highlands, Chihota communal lands, Great Dyke area, Harare outskirts, and Hwange National Park. The majority of the nest sites were on private ranch land but Wattled Cranes lived harmoniously with livestock and the birds were relatively well protected and well monitored. In recent years, however, aggressive land settlement by impoverished groups under political instruction has changed the situation and today the Zimbabwean population of Wattled Cranes is one of the most threatened in Africa. To address these threats, the Zimbabwe Crane Working Group was formed in 2000 under the auspices of BirdLife Zimbabwe. During 2000-2001, Friday Maozeka served as full-time crane field worker to drive the program and raise awareness for crane and wetland conservation. In 2002, Dr. Chip Chirara joined BirdLife Zimbabwe and undertook ground surveys and contacts with landowners in the Driefontein area, where most of the remaining Wattled Cranes are now concentrated. In April 2003, Osiman Mabhachi joined forces with Dr. Chirara and the Zimbabwe Crane Working Group to become the new Crane Conservation Officer. Mabhachi, who is the AWAC representative for Zimbabwe, is based in the Driefontein and focused on raising awareness about the plight of Wattled Cranes among local communities and other stakeholders. Important threats to Wattled Cranes include veld fires, egg collection by locals (in anticipation of payment by outsiders), and human activities such as gardening activities close to breeding sites or marshlands and streambank/marshland cultivation. Project goals include prioritizing and addressing key threats to Wattled Cranes, establishing Site Support Groups at key Wattled Cranes areas, and facilitating community-based activities that improve livelihoods for people living among the Wattled Cranes. Zimbabwe is also the site of the first successful captive breeding of Wattled Cranes in Africa, through careful captive management by Friday Maozeka and other staff at the Cannonkopje Crane Centre near Harare. The center is owned by Rolf and Alex Hangartner, who hope to spearhead a reintroduction program for Wattled Cranes in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Team
 

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