Priority Action for Black Crowned Cranes: Conservation Projects - International Crane Foundation

International Crane Foundation


Priority Action for Black Crowned Cranes: Conservation Projects

Africa: > Priority Action for Black Crowned Cranes: Conservation Projects

Priority action for Black Crowned Cranes: Conservation Projects
During the next phase of the Black Crowned Crane Program we are investigating the root causes threatening the Black Crowned Crane and its habitats, towards establishing community-based conservation programs to halt and reverse the species’ dramatic decline. We are focusing on four priority sites in West Africa. At three of these sites–the Inner Niger Delta region of Mali, the Senegal River Delta between Senegal and Mauritania, and northern Nigeria–the West African subspecies of the Black Crowned Crane is seriously threatened. The fourth site-the coastal rice-growing zone of western West Africa including the Casamance (Senegal), Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia, and Guinea—is one of remaining strongholds for the sub-species. We are also supporting more intensive surveys in southern Sudan towards better understanding the status and distribution of the Sudan Crowned Crane. Our goal is to raise awareness among local communities about the critical issues affecting the survival of Black Crowned Cranes, and provide meaningful alternatives to those activities that most seriously threaten the cranes and their habitats. The projects are grounded in a clear understanding of the local socio-economic and cultural forces affecting cranes and their habitats, as gained through our local partnerships and case study activities. Additional project priorities will be determined by colleagues in our network of Black Crowned Crane researchers, conservationists, and educators.

Crane trade in the Inner Niger Delta, Mali
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 the live crane trade, towards developing community-based awareness programs to reduce the trade in Mali and throughout the region. Bakary Kone and Bouba Fofana of Wetlands International-Mali conducted surveys in the areas of Youwarou, Tenenkou and Mopti in the Inner Niger Delta and in the capital city, Bamako. The team found that the numbers of cranes in captivity exceed numbers in the wild in the Inner Niger Delta. Cranes are obtained as adults from the villages or as young from the wild, with local trade occurring for centuries. Domestication of cranes in the Inner Niger Delta is done largely to increase a villager’s social status and protection. Crane body parts are also sold in markets as traditional medicine. There is a low level of awareness of the crane’s protected status.

The Black Crowned Crane is now in real danger of being extirpated from the Inner Niger Delta as a wild species. To prevent this from happening, we are undertaking the following activities:

  • Launching an education and public awareness campaign within the project area and at a national level;
  • Translating relevant laws and regulations into local languages;
  • Working to ban the export of cranes from Mali;
  • Liberating captive cranes by compensating locals who hold them captive or providing alternative economic opportunities.
Crane breeding and movements in the Senegal River Valley
In the Senegal Valley, Black Crowned Cranes are threatened by the conversion of floodplain wetlands into agricultural production. The Manantali Dam on the Senegal River reduces flooding and facilitates the large-scale irrigation schemes. We are investigating the factors affecting crane breeding and movement in response to these changes in the lower Senegal River valley. We are supporting park authorities from Djoudj and Diawling National Parks in Senegal and Mauritania, respectively, to work with local communities to identify nest sites, threats to breeding activities, and movements within and outside the buffer zones. Results from this study will be used to raise awareness among Senegal Valley stakeholders and decision-makers about the effects of river basin management on Black Crowned Cranes and other biodiversity on the floodplain.

Crane trade and community-based conservation in Northern Nigeria
The Black Crowned Crane was once widespread in Nigeria, with an estimated population of more than 10,000 until the 1970s. Today, probably fewer than 25 cranes remain in Nigeria and the species is on the verge of extirpation. Although the causes of the decline are not fully known, they are most likely linked to a number of threats including prolonged drought, dams and diversions, deforestation, large irrigation schemes, indiscriminate use of pesticides, and other problems. The live crane trade was also suspected as a major causal factor. We supported Mohammed Garba Boyi to undertake a survey of trade in Black Crowned Cranes in selected villages of northern Nigeria in 2001. Boyi visited 28 villagers and distributed 1200 questionnaires for the study. His results showed that although the crane is by now very rare in northern Nigeria, there is still a demand both for live birds and for body parts. Eleven of the captured birds observed were for sale or export in Kano, a major trade route for cranes in northern Nigeria. A trader in the Kano market could expect to make a profit of around 15,000 naira (US $150) from one bird. Birds are exported from Kano as far as the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman. Parts of dead Black Crowned Cranes, notably the head and feathers, are used in traditional healing. Boyi has proposed follow-up studies to explore appropriate strategies of stopping or discouraging Black Crowned Crane killing or capture.

With support from the Chester Zoo, colleagues at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation are now investigating the potential for using the Black Crowned Crane as a flagship species for community-based natural resources conservation in northern Nigeria. They are conducting Rapid Rural Appraisals in three selected communities where small numbers of Black Crowned Cranes still occur.

Crane conservation in the rice-growing zone of coastal West Africa
The Black Crowned Crane status survey program revealed that the floodplains of northern Cameroon and Chad and the coastal rice-growing zone of western West Africa are the two remaining strongholds for Black Crowned Cranes in West Africa.This project focuses on the latter area, covering the coastal zone from The Gambia through the Casamance (Senegal) and Guinea-Bissau to Guinea. More than 3000 Black Crowned Cranes still occur in the wetlands of the Casamance and Guinea-Bissau, but the region has been affected by recent wars, poor infrastructure, and a lack of resources and capacity for conservation. Our goal is to improve the conservation status and awareness of the Black Crowned Crane throughout this zone.

Project goals include:

  • Determine the distribution and status of the Black Crowned Crane in the rice-growing coastal zone of West Africa;
  • Identify and map key sites for this species in this zone, and develop preliminary plans for conservation management in these sites;
  • Develop a monitoring system for the Black Crowned Crane in this zone;
  • Improve awareness of the Black Crowned Crane and of their wetland habitats through community meetings and production of local awareness materials;
  • Improve protection status of cranes and other species through appointment and support of local site guardians; and
  • Improve local capacity for wise use of wetlands through local community workshops.

The project will be run through the Wetlands International office in Guinea-Bissau, hosted by the government’s Coastal Planning Office (GPC). Other collaborating agencies include the Direction des Parcs Nationaux, Senegal, Department of Parks & Wildlife Management, The Gambia, and Direction Nationale des Eaux et Forêts, Guinea.

Status and distribution of the Black Crowned Crane in Sudan
The Sudan Crowned Crane occurs in eastern Africa with its largest concentration in Sudan. The Sudd of the White Nile in southern Sudan is one of the largest wetland complexes in the world. Historical estimates suggest that as many as 50,000 Black Crowned Cranes occur in Sudan, based on the large number of cranes observed during the last aerial surveys conducted over this area in 1979-1981. The current status of the Sudan Crowned Crane is of concern due to the ongoing civil war in southern Sudan, regional desertification, and potential drainage of the Sudd wetlands by the Jonglei Canal, however. The Black Crowned Crane Program recently supported Ali Kodi Tirba of the Wildlife Conservation Administration in Khartoum to undertake the first Black Crowned Crane surveys in Sudan in more than 20 years. Tirba’s field research covered six key sites, and suggests that the Sudan Crowned Crane is still common south of a belt extending from Western Darfur State to the western parts of South Kordufan State, but numbers appear to be declining everywhere. Ali is interested in undertaking a more detailed study of the status of Black Crowned Cranes and wetlands in southern Sudan for his Ph.D. research.