African Crane Conservation Retreat

Between February 24 and March 5, 2018, I joined members of the African Crane Conservation Program in Uganda and Rwanda for a nine-day retreat focusing on team building activities, conservation planning and visioning for our East Africa programs, and learning new crane and ecosystem monitoring skills. The African Crane Conservation Program is a partnership between the Endangered Wildlife Trust, based in South Africa, and the International Crane Foundation.

The Africa Program Team including (standing left to right) Janine, Jimmy, Kerryn, Thabo and Adalbert and (bottom row left to right) Maurice, Rudolf, Erica and Olivier. Missing from the photo are Tanya and Emmanuel.
A selfie of Erica and the Western Kenya project team, Maurice and Rudolf, with a photobomb from Olivier from the Rwanda Project.

Conservation Planning and Visioning

I joined the team to help teach them some of the concepts behind the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation and to help them begin practicing evidence-based conservation and adaptive management. I led roughly half of the workshop, with the other half devoted to learning new monitoring approaches and tools and exploring key arising issues.

The team doing an exercise to work out the theory of change – or what they hope will happen – when they undertake a community awareness strategy.
Tanya facilitating a group through the development of a theory of change for Crane Custodianship, a key strategy used across our projects in East Africa. The model includes expected intermediate results (blue cards), threat reduction impacts (purple cards) we hope will result from our actions (white cards), and what to measure to make sure our strategy is effective (beige cards).

Crane and Ecosystem Monitoring Training

Tanya, Thabo and Claire lead two separate field days and trainings related to crane monitoring and ecosystem monitoring.

On our first field day, the team learned a number of new crane population monitoring approaches, namely fixed route survey techniques and crane breeding success monitoring.  They also learned how to use Survey123, a fantastic new tool that the International Crane Foundation and Endangered Wildlife Trust are adopting to collect loads of different data from the field.

Jimmy and other team members testing out the fixed route survey technique and using Survey123.  The fixed route survey technique will give us crane population trends over time.
School children joined the team when we were practicing crane breeding monitoring and using Survey123. They LOVED looking through the binoculars to see the crane pair and chicks.

On our second field day, the team learned a number of new monitoring approaches and tools for evaluating the status and health of wetlands. In the field, we tested fixed point photography, water turbidity tubes and soak pits.

Thabo helping Adalbert learn how to read the turbidity tube measurements while Rudolf and Olivier observe.  Turbidity tubes can help quantify changes in water quality due to upland/upstream activities. They are a great way to show community members how wetlands help clean water.
Rudolf and Maurice looking at a soak pit tube, which shows the water table level. Soak pits can help determine wetland edge and demonstrate impacts of restoration efforts.
Jimmy and Maurice teaching the school kids who joined us in the field an environmental education game. The wetland monitoring tools will help engage communities in wetlands conservation.
Erica showing the school kids the videos she took of them dancing and singing with Jimmy and Maurice.
The team being dancing cranes. At the end of the workshop, the team reviewed the expectations they had laid out on the first day of the retreat and determined that they achieved everything (notably feeling more connected as a team) and gave themselves an A+.


Erica CochraneStory submitted by Erica Cochrane, Conservation Measures Manager for the International Crane Foundation. Click here to learn more about our work in Sub-Saharan Africa.