Securing Ecosystems, Watersheds, and Flyways - International Crane Foundation

International Crane Foundation

Securing Ecosystems, Watersheds, and Flyways

Securing Ecosystems, Watersheds, and Flyways

Cranes depend on healthy wetlands and grasslands, and the surrounding landscapes that nourish these ecosystems. And because many cranes traverse long distances on migration, with no attention whatsoever to political boundaries, our efforts to safeguard these ecosystems and their watersheds often span across continents.


From the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea to the bays and estuaries of the Texas coast and many places in between, globally important ecosystems are under threat. Population pressure, poverty, water, land, and energy development, wildfires, invasive species, and more require a strategic, holistic approach to conservation.

  • The International Crane Foundation works with national governments and through international agreements to secure key ecosystems as protected areas and ensure their ecologically-sound management.
  • In Vietnam, we worked with the government to establish Tram Chim National Park for Sarus Cranes and many other species – the most important protected area in the vast Mekong Delta.
  • From Central Asia to Southern Africa, we’ve played a key role in establishing some of the most important crane areas on Earth as “Wetlands of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention.
  • In South Africa, we help secure key crane areas through voluntary “Biodiversity Stewardship Agreements” between landowners and the government, extending the national network of protected areas.


Sustainable river basin management is critical to the health of downstream ecosystems. The International Crane Foundation has become deeply involved in securing vital flows in major river systems around the world.

  • In southern Africa, we are leading international efforts to secure water flows in the Zambezi River watershed to sustain the Kafue Flats, Liuwa Plain, Zambezi Delta, and other key wetlands.
  • At China’s Momoge National Nature Reserve, the key staging area for almost the entire global population of Siberian Cranes, we are working with our Chinese colleagues to secure water inflows by using excess irrigation water from huge expanses of rice fields.
  • In Kenya, our partner the Kipsaina Crane and Wetland Conservation Group, under the leadership of Maurice Wanjala, has cultivated and planted more than one million native trees to stabilize slopes and promote agro-forestry around Saiwa National Park, restoring breeding grounds for Grey Crowned Cranes and other threatened species.


Along the long migration paths of most crane species lie wetlands where cranes pause to rest and regain fat reserves that fuel their passage. Unless the flyway as a whole remains viable, species within that flyway cannot thrive. The International Crane Foundation helps countries work together to assure the welfare of places essential for these far-traveling birds.

  • Our multinational, United Nations-supported Siberian Crane Wetland Project is the international mode for the “flyway approach.” The project spans the two major Siberian Crane flyways in East and West Asia, covering four key countries – Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Iran. This effort resulted in improved protection for more than 4 million acres of wetlands through the establishment of new reserves, expansion of existing reserves, improved legal protection of others, and the declaration of five new “Wetlands of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention for Wetlands.