Notes from the President – Thank You for Standing With Us

As I reflect on our accomplishments during this challenging year, I have never been prouder of our team and how together we have become stronger, never wavering in our mission in a time of crisis. Long before the pandemic began spreading across the globe, we were combatting global crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. And as our latest Annual Report 2020 reflects, we are making a difference together while keeping our teams safe and strong.

Thanks to you, we helped upgrade 4.7 million acres of Siberian Crane breeding habitat into the new Kytalyk National Park in Russia and protect 478,000 acres of White-naped Crane breeding habitat in Mongolia through the new Khurkh and Khuiten River Valley National Nature Reserve. We created 150 seasonal jobs to remove 4,180 acres of invasive Mimosa pigra from the Kafue Flats in Zambia – increasing rural income and community support for
floodplain conservation while restoring Africa’s most important wetland for Wattled Cranes. We signed conservation agreements with 13 communities in East Africa to conserve 520,000 acres of wetlands and planted 10,000 indigenous tree seedlings, 4,000 fruit tree seedlings, and tens of thousands of Napier grass seedlings to restore hillslopes, reduce erosion, and improve livelihoods.

We helped farmers in South Africa adopt more sustainable land-use practices on more than 200,000 acres of crane habitat. We engaged 220 private landowners in developing a new land management guide to improve wintering habitat for Whooping Cranes – offering new hope for this species as they expand from protected areas to private lands. Many thousands of students across the U.S., Asia and Africa received our hands-on Cranes in the Classroom program, and we trained more than 50 educators to inspire tomorrow’s leaders and encourage local action through school conservation clubs and camps.

As we look to 2021, I am especially excited about the lasting impact we will make through our new Conservation Impact Fund. Through the generosity of our Crane Heritage Society members and your planned giving, we created a new fund to provide deeper support to projects where the needs are greatest.

We have new multiple-year agreements with government and local partners to support management of the new nature reserve in Mongolia, protecting important breeding grounds for White-naped Cranes and many grassland birds, and the Kafue Flats of Zambia, home to a third of the world’s Wattled Cranes, is securing protection for all the world’s Kafue Lechwe antelope and more than 400 bird species. In the stunning Drakensburg of South Africa, home to three
endangered crane species, we are launching our first carbon-offset project to generate support for farmers to adopt sustainable land-use practices and improve their livelihoods. We are helping farmers in western Kenya adopt new wildlife-friendly crops that are resilient to climate change and help sustain Grey Crowned Cranes. And we are more nimble in addressing challenges immediately as they arise. Following record flooding at Poyang Lake this year, we are sending a research team to assess the impact on food availability for wintering Siberian and White-naped Cranes to make sure their needs are met.

We are also devoting more time to you, our members, by growing our flock of conservation partners. As our flock grows, so does our impact – we can’t do any of this without you. I hope you enjoyed our Virtual Member Appreciation Day in October, which featured a guided tour of our remodeled visitor experience in Baraboo. In the coming year, we will continue to offer exclusive curated events, videos and presentations to bring the dynamic world of conservation to your living room. If you missed the member event, you can view and share it here.

As I write today, much of our attention is focused on managing the impact of the global pandemic on our teams and mission worldwide and bringing people together from diverse cultures and backgrounds to solve problems and affect positive societal change in a time of profound tension. We do so knowing that the health of people and our natural world are inextricably linked. The challenges we face are daunting, but we are learning from success and deepening our

Thank you for supporting our efforts to combat the global decline in cranes and many other bird species, the loss of their precious habitats, and the impacts of climate change. Thank you for standing with us through the global pandemic as we bring people together through cranes as global ambassadors for goodwill and cooperation.

Rich Beilfuss
President and CEO