Uganda Crane Festival Celebrates Communities and Grey Crowned Cranes

The unusual happened as the International Crane Foundation, Endangered Wildlife Trust and NatureUganda Partnership celebrated cranes on March 2, in Kabale, Uganda. The celebration at Kikungiri Primary School attracted hundreds of participants, including primary school children, university students, conservationists, civic leaders, the media, private sector practitioners and politicians. Surprisingly, the cranes that were slated to be the centre of the talk during the celebrations made a maiden physical appearance to the amazement of many!

Our¬†intensive preparations¬†for the festival¬†began¬†at¬†the¬†field and secretariat level,¬†resulting in the design and production of¬†a variety of publicity materials, including¬†t-shirts¬†stating¬†‚ÄúBend the¬†curve of the crane population,‚Ä̬†crane-labeled¬†teardrop¬†signs¬†and banners.

On the eve of the festival, we participated in a radio talk show, during which we articulated several aspects of the upcoming festival and made a call to all to attend the function. By 8:30 a.m. the next day, hundreds of participants had gathered at Highland Hotel Kabale to receive t-shirts to don and banners to hoist as they matched. Guided by the traffic police and led on by a brass band, the procession marched through Kabale town up to the celebration venue. No sooner had the march ended than the guest of honour, the Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Godfrey Kiwanda arrived and was welcomed by the Executive Director of NatureUganda. After the national and East African Anthems, the Minister was taken on a tour of a variety of wetland-based crafts and art exhibitions displayed by schools and communities to demonstrate sustainable use as proclaimed by NatureUganda.

The¬†District Natural Resources Officer for Kabale¬†and I¬†alluded to the¬†project activities¬†in the Kigezi¬†region.¬†I further¬†paid tribute to¬†the Uganda Program¬†project initiatives,¬†including our local¬†Crane¬†Custodians¬†who monitor breeding Grey Crowned Cranes,¬†the¬†Cranes in the¬†Classroom¬†education program¬†and Conservation Agreements¬†with local communities,¬†and how¬†these projects¬†contribute to the enhancement of crane breeding success. The¬†Executive Director of¬†NatureUganda Mr.¬†Achilles Byaruhanga emphasized the meaning of “Bend the¬†Curve” and its relationship with the World Wildlife Day 2020 theme,¬†‚ÄúSustaining All Life on Earth.‚Ä̬†He further highlighted the¬†economic¬†importance of Grey Crowned Cranes and birds in general, as¬†they contribute significantly to the national income.

Prior to the festival, we conducted a Cranes in the Classroom school assessment on performance against set parameters and the winning schools were awarded their prizes at the festival. Amidst cheers, Katuna Primary School scooped the winning plaque. They were closely followed by Rushabo Primary School and Buhara Primary School emerged the second runner-up, receiving certificates.

On his part, the District Chairperson of Kabale Mr. Keihwa Besigye condemned in the strongest terms the habit of harvesting cranes for food.

Meanwhile, our project team demonstrated with a set of rubbish bins the essence of effective rubbish disposal. The bins were later donated to Kikungiri Primary School, the festival host.

As the¬†Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities¬†took to the podium, a flock of cranes¬†flew by several times with the¬†intention¬†of¬†landing¬†at the venue.¬†In response, everyone made a loud crane-like¬†call¬†that lasted¬†over¬†five¬†minutes!¬†In¬†amusement, the minister wondered if the cranes had been “tipped” to time¬†and appear during¬†his remarks time. The¬†celebration¬†then¬†climaxed into dancing, singing, gesturing and clapping in imitation of Grey Crowned Cranes.¬†The¬†minister¬†then¬†made his remarks,¬†full of applause for the crane project¬†and NatureUganda at large,¬†and¬†in particular, he paid¬†special tribute to¬†the¬†International Crane Foundation.

The¬†Minister¬†ended with¬†launching¬†the¬†National Species Action Plan for the Grey Crowned Crane, a document¬†whose development,¬†NatureUganda¬†had¬†dominantly championed on behalf of the government¬†of Uganda.¬†The local communities then staged a ‚Äúcrane dance‚ÄĚ to which the minister couldn‚Äôt resist joining in, an appropriate end to the celebration!

Jimmy MuheebweStory submitted by Jimmy Muheebwa, Uganda Projects Coordinator. Click here to learn more about our work in Sub-Saharan Africa.