Protecting Wattled Crane Nests in South Africa

Wattled Crane nest
A Wattled Crane nest with two eggs in the Umgeni Vlei Nature Reserve with a prescribed fire in the background. Lara Jordan, International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust
Wattled Crane

The Wattled Crane breeding season in eastern South Africa overlaps with prescribed burns during the winter fire season. Due to the timing of this natural fire season, one of the most significant historical threats to the species has been the loss of eggs and chicks at nest sites to fire.

Today, the International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership works with farmers, landowners and nature reserves to secure the safety of the eggs and chicks by temporarily removing them while the scheduled burns are conducted. Our team returns the eggs or chicks to the parents once it is safe. The pictured rescues took several hours, but we are happy to report that the chicks and parents are all doing well after the fires!

Wattled Crane chick
Mzolisi Chonco holds a Wattled Crane chick that was removed from its parents’ territory before a prescribed burn. The chick has a hood on to help keep it calm.
Prescribed fire, South Africa
A firebreak is defined to help control the larger prescribed burn on a local farm. A Wattled Crane pair is nesting along the edge of the nearby lake.
Field staff, South Africa
Drakensberg Coordinator Lara Jordan and Joe Gates borrowed a kick boat from one of the farm managers to access the nest and its valuable eggs.
Field staff, South Africa
Lara paddles the boat out to the Wattled Crane nest.
Wattled Crane eggs
Once the eggs were safely on land, they were transferred to a heated incubator to keep them ‘snug’ until the fire passed. The two water bottles are filled with warm water.

Story submitted by Lara Jordan South African Drakensberg Coordinator. Learn more about our work in Sub-Saharan Africa here.