African Crane Trade - International Crane Foundation

International Crane Foundation


African Crane Trade

Grey Crowned Crane, photo by Shawn Oleson

The Endangered Grey Crowned Crane is the world’s fastest declining crane species. Wetland and grassland loss in East and Southern Africa, as well as illegal capture of wild cranes for captive facilities around the word, has caused the population to plummet by up to 80%. Click here to learn how you can help. Photo by Shawn Oleson

Why We Care
Africa’s four crane species, Grey and Black Crowned, Blue and Wattled Cranes, are taken from the wild for local domestication and captive trade markets. This trade is one of the primary threats to Black and Grey Crowned Cranes, with a significant impact on their wild populations.

What We Do
The African Crane Trade Project is developing a model program to reduce the impact of captive crane trade on wild cranes by targeting supply within Africa and demand both within Africa and globally.
Our efforts focus on understanding the complex supply and demand chains that affect cranes; creating awareness of the status of Africa’s resident cranes and the threat that trade poses to wild populations; and advocating for changes in policies and legislation that govern the trade in cranes, both locally and internationally.

How You Can Help

Grey Crowned Crane Plush

1. Your purchase of our new Grey Crowned Crane plush toy supports the ICF/EWT Partnership for African Cranes and our efforts to protect this iconic species. From it’s pom-pom crown to its toes, the exclusive 9″ Grey Crowned Crane celebrates all of the best features of this charismatic species. Price: $17.99



eagle optics denali 8 422. Donate gently-used binoculars for crane monitoring projects in Africa. If you have gently-used binoculars that you wish to donate, please contact for more information on how to direct your donation.



3. Write to your local zoo and ask them not to buy wild-caught cranes or cranes of unknown origin. Zoos and other captive breeding centers play a critical role in ensuring that crowned cranes are bred responsibly. Click here to download and customize our sample letter.


Download play video button arrow4. If you work at a zoo or captive breeding center, download our factsheetHow Zoos Can Help, to learn how you can become involved, and view the companion video Grey Crowned Cranes Need Our Help! This four-minute video is an important tool for raising awareness of the severe threat that illegal trade poses to the Grey Crowned Crane’s survival and helps address one of the greatest needs: alerting captive facilities, wildlife authorities, and the public about actions they can take to safeguard this charismatic species.


Blue Crane release, photo by Bradley GibbonsIn February 2010 Endangered Wildlife Trust staff returned four Blue Cranes to the Karoo in South Africa. The cranes were confiscated from traders who had illegally captured the birds from the wild. Three of the cranes are pictured, with wraps to keep them calm during the transfer, just prior to release. Photo by Bradley Gibbons, Endangered Wildlife Trust.


Grey Crowned and Black Crowned Cranes, icons of the African landscape and once considered the most secure of African cranes, have dramatically declined in the wild over the last several decades. In response, Black Crowned Cranes have been uplisted to Vulnerable and Grey Crowned Cranes to Endangered under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Data Book.

Although habitat loss is a significant threat for these species, trade in live cranes from the wild to captive facilities around the world for display is believed to be the main cause for their dramatic decline.

Read the Story

uganda rescue

Learn more about African crane trade through the story of two Grey Crowned Crane chicks rescued from traders by ICF colleague Jimmy Muheebwa, Project Coordinator for Nature Uganda.

The African Crane Trade Project is led by the International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership for African Cranes.

Special thanks to our colleagues who have provided support for the African Crane Trade Project:

Abilene Zoo, Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Dohmen Family Foundation, Miami Zoo and Weltvogelpark Walsrode