International Crane Foundation


Black Crowned Crane Program

Africa: > Black Crowned Crane Program

Status Surveys, Community Awareness, and Conservation Planning in the Sahel Region
A joint initiative of the International Crane Foundation and Wetlands International in partnership with organizations and individuals from twenty African nations.

The Black Crowned Crane, a resident of the Sahel and Sudan Savannah regions of Africa, is of global conservation concern. Black Crowned Cranes range from the Senegal basin and Guinea Bissau drainage in West Africa to the western Ethiopian Highlands and Southwest Rift Valley in East Africa. There are two sub-species. The West African Crowned Crane (Balearica pavonina.pavonina) occupies the western part of this range, from Senegal to Chad. The Sudan Crowned Crane (B.p. ceciliae) occurs in eastern Africa with its largest concentration in Sudan.

The Black Crowned Crane is a denizen of many of the major wetland systems of the Sahelian region, including the delta of the Senegal river, the inland delta of the Niger River in Mali, the Waza River at Lake Chad in Cameroon, and the extensive Sudd wetlands in southern Sudan. Black Crowned Cranes use both wet and dry open habitats, but prefer a mixture of shallow wetlands and grasslands (especially seasonally flooded lowlands in the Sahelian savannahs). They can be considered both year-round residents and local migrants, flocking together during the dry (non-breeding) season and moving from large permanent wetlands to smaller temporary wetlands formed during the rainy season. Although they are non-migratory, daily and seasonal movements may in some areas range up to several dozen kilometers.

Historically, the Black Crowned Crane was abundant and widely distributed across its range. The species is thought to have occurred in at least 27 countries, with the West African Crowned Crane ranging across 22 countries in West and Central Africa, and the Sudan Crowned Crane occurring in eight East African countries. During the past thirty years, however, the species has been decreasing across much of its range and the population is now fragmented into eight or more isolated populations. The West Africa Crowned Crane has declined so dramatically over the past twenty-five years that it is now threatened with extirpation across much of its range. In Nigeria, where it was once common and is still the national bird, the population plummeted from more than 15,000 birds in the early 1970s to no more than a few individuals today. The status of the Sudan Crowned Crane is also of concern due to the ongoing civil war in southern Sudan and potential drainage of the Sudd wetlands; only limited surveys have been possible since the early 1980s.

The rapid decrease in the population of the West Africa Crowned Crane and the lack of knowledge about the status of Sudan Crowned Crane has stimulated conservation efforts on behalf of the species in recent years. The species is classified as Vulnerable under the revised IUCN Red List Categories. The West Africa Crowned Crane is classified Endangered, and the Sudan Crowned Crane Vulnerable. Black Crowned Cranes are legally protected in most countries where they occur, and their habitats are protected within several National Parks and other wildlife management areas across their range. A few of these protected areas, including Waza National Park in Northern Cameroon and Djoudj National Park in Senegal, may still support viable populations of breeding cranes. However, cranes in these areas do not occur exclusively within the protected areas, and utilise a variety of habitats around the parks, including agricultural lands.

In 1992, Nigeria hosted the International Conference on the Black Crowned Crane and its Wetland Habitats, and the Black Crowned Crane Working Group was established. This Working Group re-convened at the African Crane and Wetland Training Workshop, held by ICF in Botswana in 1993, to discuss strategies for protecting the species. Despite these initiatives, however, there were no range-wide information on the population size or distribution of the species and very few ecological studies. Very little was known about specific causes of species’ decline anywhere in its range. Without accurate information on the conservation status of the species, scientists were unable to launch effective programs for the conservation and recovery of the species.

What’s New
The Chester Zoo awarded £7925 (approximately $13,200) for the project, "Conservation of Black Crowned Cranes in the rice growing zone of coastal West Africa." The project covers the region from The Gambia down to Sierra Leone, with special focus on Guinea-Bissau. Read morearrow

Status Survey and Conservation Planning for Black Crowned Cranes
In 2000, ICF and Wetlands International launched a comprehensive program to assess the status of Black Crowned Cranes in Africa and develop concrete plans for the conservation of the species across its range. Emmanuel Williams from Sierra Leone served Read morearrow

Priority Action for Black Crowned Cranes: Conservation Projects
During the status surveys, several countries reported the extensive capture and sale of Black Crowned Cranes and suggested that it may be one of the leading causes of decline in parts of West Africa. We are now working to identify the main factors behind Read morearrow

Program Partners and Supporters
Program partners in West Africa include the Centre de Recherche Ornithologique et de l’Environnement (CEROE) in Benin, La Fondation des Amis de la Nature (NATURAMA) in Burkina Faso, Ecole de Faune de Garoua in Cameroon, Ministère de l’Environment et de l’Eau in Chad, Department of Parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM) in The Gambia, Ghana Wildlife Society, Direction National des Eaux et Forêts in Guinea, Bureau du Planification Cotiére in Guinea Bissau, Parc National du Diawling in Mauritania, Direction de la Faune, de la Pêche et de la Pisciculture in Niger, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), the Direction des Parcs Nationaux in Senegal and Foundation Working Group International and Wetland Research (WIWO) in the Netherlands. Read morearrow

Program Publications
Action Plan

Black Crowned Crane Action Plan (Williams, Beilfuss, and Dodman 2002) – (.pdf 5251KB)

Project reports

Progress reports for the Black Crowned Crane Program – (.pdf 283KB)

Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina survey program in the Sudan (Ali 2000). Read morearrow