International Crane Foundation

 
Black Crowned Cranes, photo by Crane Wu

African Crane Trade Conservation Story

Black Crowned Cranes, photo by Crane Wu← African Crane Trade

Grey Crowned and Black Crowned Cranes (right, photo by Crane Wu), icons of the African landscape and once considered the most secure of African cranes, have dramatically declined in the wild. Grey Crowned Cranes have declined across most of their range by 50-79% over the last 45 years (excluding South Africa, where the population has remained stable). Black Crowned Cranes have declined by an estimated 27-40% since 1985, but likely the decline has been far more severe. In response, Black Crowned Cranes have been uplisted to Vulnerable and Grey Crowned Cranes to Endangered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Book. They are also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which requires exporting countries to show that trade will not harm the wild population. 

Although habitat loss is a significant threat for these species, trade in live cranes from the wild to captive facilities around the world for display is believed to be the main cause for their dramatic decline. Crowned cranes seem most affected by live trade, in part because they are in high demand (they are unique looking, iconic of Africa, and tolerate being displayed in groups and with other species) and in part because there are fewer effective controls in many of their countries of origin. Yet, nowhere are these cranes sustainably managed in captivity. Indeed, many of the players involved in the demand and supply sides of this trade still believe that these species are plentiful. Without attention, this trade could lead to loss of these species from much of Africa. 

 

ICF in Action

Through the International Crane Foundation/Endangered WildlifeTrust Partnership for African Cranes we are undertaking a comprehensive strategy to understand and mitigate the impacts of trade in our African Crane Trade Project. Our initial efforts have focused on surveys to monitor status and trends and to manage threats. To address the trade issue, we use the CITES trade database to monitor crane numbers and movements, and identify exporting and importing countries for the cranes. These data are being used to target areas of key supply and demand and to promote stronger policies and enforcement.

Our education efforts target local communities that may play a role in the trade of wild-caught cranes and focus on building awareness within these communities of the potential negative impacts of their activities on wildlife. Our work engages local communities in conservation activities, including involving them in the development of wetland management plans, income generating activities outside of the wetland to reduce the pressure on wetlands and cranes, and training local community members to be involved in Grey Crowned Crane monitoring.

Picture building game

An educational picture building game illustrating the cranes, their habitats and threats to each, including illegal trade, provides an opportunity for discussions on wetland management and rehabilitation and facilitates the development of management plans. Above, ICF/EWT African Crane Conservation Program Manager, Kerryn Morrison (far right), works with local community members on developing the picture building game.


The Way Forward

Download "How Zoos Can Help" fact sheetAs zoos take on a critical role in reducing the demand for crowned cranes from the wild, there is a need for regional zoo associations to collaborate to improve breeding success and sound management of captive populations of crowned cranes (download our How Zoos Can Help fact sheet). Our future work will build capacity and promote genetic and demographic management of the captive populations in zoos, to improve awareness and engage the private breeders or display facilities to collaborate on sustainable management, to work with government authorities and CITES officials to monitor and regulate trade, and ultimately to reduce demand for wild caught crowned cranes.

“Although habitat loss is a significant threat for these species, trade in live cranes from the wild to captive facilities around the world for display is believed to be the main cause for their dramatic decline….Without attention, this trade could lead to loss of these species from much of Africa.”

 

Grey Crowned Cranes, photo by Shawn Oleson

Grey Crowned Cranes. Photo by Shawn Oleson