BLUE CRANES -(Anthropoides paradiseus) - A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
by William Horsfield

Status and distribution
The National Bird of South Africa the Blue Crane, Anthropoides paradiseus, belongs to the subfamily Gruinae in the family Gruidae.
The distribution of the Blue Crane is the most restricted of the World's fifteen crane species. Three of these species are found in SA. These being Wattled, Crowned and Blue. The Blue Crane is listed in the Newman's 7th edition as an uncommon, threatened, endemic resident to South Africa. In the Red Data Book it is listed as Vulnerable. This is viewed by many as giving a false indication of its status because while the population has increased in the Overberg (which is not its natural range) and thereby making up its numbers, it appears there has been a significant population decline throughout its natural range. Taking this into account the overall population can reasonably be assumed to be definitely threatened.
There is also a small population in Etosha Pan in Northern Namibia and an occasional sighting in Botswana. There has been a significant and disturbing decline in the population of the Blue Crane in general in the last 20 years and stringent measures have been adopted to secure its future. The 2000 census stood at only 16 250 birds and the total population is estimated at around 20 000 birds although this figure may well be out.

A report by Kevin McCann shows that there appear to be three distinct subpopulations of Blue Crane within South Africa viz. the Eastern sub-population, the Central Karoo subpopulation and the Overberg/Swartland sub-population. Colour-ringing re-sightings and satellite telemetry data collection have been two techniques extensively employed over the past five years to clarify the movement patterns into and within these 3 regions.

The Eastern Population comprises the birds from Dullstroom/Belfast through Wakkerstroom and into KwaZulu-Natal. These eastern populations tend to show movements out of their breeding areas during winter months. The KZN midlands birds move Northwards and the Dull-stroom birds move Southwards to Carolina, possibly even as far as Amersfoort (60km's N of Wakkerstroom) Although yet to be confirmed this population may mix during the winter months in and around the Wakkerstroom region.

The Central Karoo subpopulation appears to be fairly sedentary, possibly showing local movements within the Karoo throughout the year, with the birds staying close to the breeding region throughout the first year of their lives. From other observations it is presumed that once the juveniles disperse the following year it would appear that their movements are entirely determined by the availability of roosting sites, i.e. full dam sites, but yet are restricted within the Karoo subregion. This pattern disproves the assumption that was originally made i.e. that the Karoo population of Blues moved into the Overberg region during the winter months.

The Overberg/Swartland sub-population do not appear to move out of the region, as the furthest movement was only to Heidelberg within the Overberg. The abundance of food (especially during the winter months) and nesting sites probably make it unnecessary for them to move out of the region. Movement patterns which have become established fairly recently would be as a result of spill-over birds from the Overberg into the Swartland as certain areas in the Overberg become saturated by increasing numbers of Blue Cranes through high breeding productivity. However none of these movements were shown by birds fitted with transmitters.

Description, vocalizations & social displays
The Blue crane is a distinctive blue-grey, long-legged bird with a bulbous head and long wing plumes that may trail along the ground. These are often mistaken for the tail feathers. The tail is in actual fact short and square. Bonded pairs usually call in unison while throwing their heads back and pointing their beaks skywards. Plumage-wise they are sexually monomorphic but the vocal and visual components of the Unison Call (an antiphonal duet) are sexually distinct. The male typically emits a long series of low calls and the female accompanies him with two or three high-pitched calls for each low call of the male. The males invariably elevate their wings and droop their primaries during the Unison Call, while the females normally keep their wings closed. There is little other observable difference although male birds may have a bolder head and their wing feathers may trail further on the ground. Sex determination is preferably done using a blood sample for laboratory DNA analysis. Birds that have been surgically sexed should have a tattoo under the right wing for males and left for females.

The Blue Crane stands approx 105cm high, although it can reach much higher with full stretch. Grey herons are often mistaken for Blue Cranes by the inexperienced person and here it can be remembered that cranes fly with straight extended necks while herons fly with a bend in the neck.

Although they make a number of different calls the typical Blue Crane call is described as a loud, rattling, nasal 'kraaaaaarrk'. Other calls include low, purr-like Contact Calls, slightly louder Pre-flight Calls, purr-like or shrill Pre-copulatory Calls, scream-like Distress Calls, scream-like plaintive Location Calls, abrupt Alarm Calls, and loud Flight Calls and Guard Calls. Pairs display territorially by bowing and lowering their heads towards the ground while simultaneously vigorously shuffling their wings and then lifting their heads back up in a forward scooping motion.
Other social displays include rigid threat posturing, rigid strutting, ritualized preening of the back or thigh, feather ruffling, tail fluttering, crouching, growling and hissing. They also perform an elaborate dance involving bowing, leaping, running, and flapping, often tossing objects like sticks into the air.

Interestingly the form of these complex behaviors is apparently independent of learning, with blind cranes being able to perform a full complement of behaviors (except that they throw white sticks in the air). However the object towards which this behavior is directed is learned. For this reason, handraised cranes that have not been properly socialized with others of their own species, often display to people instead of to other cranes. This is known as sexual imprinting.

Filial imprinting is the normal imprinting pattern that occurs between the parent crane and the chick. This process starts almost 2 days before the chick hatches, as it communicates with the parent. Parental attachment is complete within the first 3 days and becomes stronger during the first 2 weeks.

Cranes in general are very long-lived, particularly in captivity and are reproductively active for most of their adult lives. Although I didn't find records for Blue Cranes, there are instances of individual birds living to ripe old ages. A wild-caught Siberian Crane male survived both World Wars in a zoo in Switzerland and fathered chicks at the ICF in his late seventies. White-Naped Cranes have bred to over 67 years and Eurasian to almost 43. Demoiselles have bred when both birds of the pair were over 60 years!

The Blue Crane is primarily a bird of dry, upland grasslands. They use natural grass- and sedge-dominated habitats in these biomes for both nesting and feeding, but will roost in wetlands if available. Birds are gregarious out of the breeding season and form large flocks but separate into pairs for the breeding season. Youngsters stay with the parents for most of the year after they fledge and move on with the commencement of the new breeding cycle.

Legality and permits
It is illegal to keep any indigenous crane in South Africa without a permit from the local Nature Conservation organization. In spite of this there are an estimated 2000 birds (possibly many more) being held of which only 234 are legally registered in the latest National Studbook. Historically there has been little control over this, as owners of illegal birds have not wanted to come forward and have their birds listed on the studbook for fear of having them confiscated and/or facing criminal prosecution. This is a catch 22 situation because unless people come forward, it is going to be impossible to ascertain what the actual numbers in captivity are and at this stage they are not likely to come forward unless they have some sort of indemnity.
There have been some progressive suggestions in this regard and a workshop scheduled for the end of February 2001, will no doubt achieve some clarity on the situation of illegally held birds and the trade in wild-caught cranes.

I am aware that a proposed national amnesty period has been suggested, as was the case in KZN with the Natal Parks Board regarding Cape Parrots. This would grant those keeping cranes without permits an opportunity to get their house in order. The idea behind the amnesty is to allow one to register illegal birds for an unpunishable period, whereafter it will be punishable to do so. Those holding cranes illegally would be granted permits during this amnesty period, but only if they fulfilled basic holding conditions.

I think that many owners of these birds would be very happy to send their birds (particularly single birds) to better facilities if they were absolved from prosecution. Those that still want to keep their birds will surely be prepared to jack up their set-ups if it is in the best interests of the birds and if they can in exchange, get them on permit? This is a way in which everyone wins as I see it. There are some legal ramifications pertaining to legislation but these can hopefully be sorted out.
Dr. Ferdi Schoeman, who holds the Blue Crane Studbook in Pretoria (all contact details at end of article) has the frustrating job of trying to determine captive numbers and get them listed. Any sort of deal struck between conservation authorities, crane groups and owners would no doubt make his year!

Kerryn Morrison, of SACWG has been assigned the task of trying to obtain this information on current captive numbers. While she cannot at this stage assist in legalizing unlicensed birds, she has undertaken to treat all information supplied to her as strictly confidential. I would appeal to everyone who has illegal birds to at least contact her with your information. After the upcoming workshop she may well be able to advise you on how to go about legalizing your birds. In any event you have nothing to lose and possibly something to gain.

She has already started to collate all information gathered and on the basis of her findings, will implement an action plan. Anyone with knowledge, no matter how seemingly insignificant, of persons trapping cranes, removing chicks or eggs from the wild or even with any knowledge of where suspected illegal birds are being held is also asked to contact her. This trafficking must come to an end if our beautiful National bird is to survive for our kids to watch it dancing in the wild.

Remember again that all tip-offs & info supplied will be considered strictly confidential. Also remember to mention that your response is as a result of this article in Avizandum.

Hand-in-hand with this will hopefully come new legislation to maintain a stronger control on the keeping of Cranes and the issue of permits. This would mean that in future the illegal keeping of these birds would be a far more serious offense. Penalties have been pathetically punitive in the past and it is hoped that new laws will severely punish offenders.

All captive cranes must be positively identifiable. Metal bands engraved with an identification number and placed above one hock, are good permanent markers. Those placed above the foot may become tangled with vegetation and pose a hazard to the bird. Blue Cranes need a 16mm ring which are obtainable as split, nationally-numbered rings from the SA Bird-ringing Unit in Cape Town or as personalized, s/steel, seamless bands from E & L Enterprises in Empangeni. Colour-coded leg-bands assist better with visual identification. Micro-chip transponder implants are however the irrefutable method of identification and are also necessary for studbook record -keeping purposes. There are two systems available in SA (Trovan & Identipet) but unfortunately their scanners are not compatible. The micro-chip is a rice-grain sized inert, individually bar-coded capsule, that is injected under the skin of the crane by a veterinarian for permanent identification purposes. There have been a very small percentage of faulty transponders recorded and these would only be detectable upon radiograph exposure.

An identification technique which I am sure will be used in the near future is that of genetic-fingerprinting. Natal University in PMB have purchased a multi-million Rand machine that can provide the genetic fingerprint sequence of an individual animal. In the case of the crane, the birds DNA would be required to determine the PCR-assay (polymerase chain reaction) and this could be obtained from a small blood sample. If this technology is made available for cranes then each bird could have its own "passport" and the problem of positive identification would forever be solved! Watch this space.

The illegal trapping of wild cranes and especially the capture of young birds is to be totally condemned. The days of going into the bush and catching cranes must end now.

While captive populations are an essential safety reservoir for the future of the Blue Cranes in the event of a catastrophic wipeout in the wild, with the estimated 10% already held captive in SA, there are already sufficient numbers for captive breeding programmes. What is needed now is for transparency and cooperation between owners of these birds and the crane organizations.

Progeny bred from those in captivity can be used to supply the high avicul-tural demand for the Blue Crane. The sale of captive-bred birds, with a few exceptions has not been allowed in most provinces to date and is not supported by SACWG. However I believe that if this trade was allowed, it would actually decrease the illegal capture from wild populations and not increase the demand as is argued by SACWG. Let's face it. The demand already exists. Cranes are beautiful birds and there will always be an avicultural interest in them. The main reason I believe that people catch the birds in the wild is because they cannot get hold of legal, captive-bred cranes without a monumental effort against beaurocracy at its best. The second reason is that there is nothing really stopping them doing it and even if they do get caught, chances are that they will get off or incur a small fine.

If all the accepted guidelines are followed, the cost of putting up a crane breeding pen is expensive. It can be reasonably argued that because they are not difficult birds to breed, under ideal captive conditions & with experienced care, they will produce youngsters. Now comes the problem. You cannot sell them. You can donate them or dispose of them (whatever that really means) but you may not offer them for sale for cash. Now let's get real here! All this costs money. While the idea of breeding cranes should not be driven by profit incentive, it is logical from an avicultural point of view, to expect to be able move these birds to another facility and receive remuneration of some sort if and when you breed them and can hold no more at your own facility. Otherwise what is the point of going to all the effort to breed them in the first place? The re-introduction into the wild schemes are now reserved for the Wattled Crane so all the Blues bred in captivity are likely to stay there.. And if there are excess in SA then why not send them to suitable institutions overseas that can establish them there as well? After all, we have allowed the import of exotic cranes into our country in the past. The debate between the academics, researchers, conservation lobbyists and aviculturists is likely to rage on but ultimately it is hoped that there can be a consensus reached in the interests of the birds.

I would furthermore like to suggest that a nominal mandatory percentage from the sale of privately-owned captive birds be made available for crane conservation. With all this in mind it must also be understood that keeping cranes in captivity is condoned on a small scale for educational purposes but largely for breeding purposes. It will no longer be permitted to keep pairs for the prestige of having beautiful birds walking across the front lawn to impress the guests. Successful breeding of cranes requires knowledge and commitment with carefully designed infrastructure systems. With their long legs and necks and fragile wings they are literally accidents waiting to happen and sadly many cranes die accidentally each year. Some get caught up in fences, some are killed by other cranes jumping from adjacent camps, some killed by domestic dogs, some drown in swimming pools while others die from eating bits of wire. All totally unnecessary and all taking a toll on the total captive population. Once again it is hoped that the new permit system (to be thrashed out at the upcoming workshop) will have strict guidelines and protocols which will be in the best interests of the birds and these will try to minimize risks to the birds from ignorant or negligent owners and custodians.

Breeding, including artificial incubation
Blue Cranes breed during the summer months from September through to February.
Preferred nesting sites are secluded grasslands in higher elevations, although they also nest in wetlands. Their main breeding stronghold at present is in the wheatlands of the Overberg in the Cape. (The Overberg region for those who haven't a clue stretches from Sir Lowry's Pass between Somerset-West and Grabouw to Swellendam near the Breede River)

In captivity, they can start to breed at approx. 4 years of age. They are not fussy and may lay almost anywhere using as little as a shallow scrape for the eggs. Generally two heavily brown-speckled eggs are laid and incubation is shared by the parents. The eggs are laid at 2-3 day intervals, although most birds start to incubate soon after the 1st egg is laid. If the first clutch of eggs is removed for artificial incubation the pair will invariably lay again. Eggs removed for artificial incubation have a far higher success rate if they are first allowed to be incubated with the parents for 2 weeks. Due to the dark colouration, it is hard to candle the egg to determine fertility. Egg flotation may be used with eggs older than 21 days. The fertile egg will float nearly vertically with the large end up. Use a mild iodine-based disinfectant solution at 43 degrees Celsius for this technique and float for less than one minute.

Dry-bulb incubation temperature for all Crane eggs is 37.6 degrees Celsius and wet-bulb temperature is 30.0 C. Eggs can be weighed twice weekly and should lose 15% of their fresh weight over the incubation period. When chicks have pipped, place them in the hatcher at 37.2 C and at maximum % RH. Place the egg with pip mark facing upwards. Incubation period is 30-33 days with average of 30days and chicks weigh around 100grams at hatch. Occasionally the second egg is deserted once the first has hatched, although they will usually sit until all fertile eggs have hatched. A deserted egg can be artificially hatched and then carefully reintroduced to the family. The hatching chick is encouraged to struggle to free itself if you make short purring noises to it. When I was spotted doing this to an egg, not only did I feel like a prize twot, but the skeptical observer understandably thought I had finally lost my marbles. Only when I showed her how the chick immediately reacts to this vocal stimulation by kicking and pecking to free itself, did I regain some credibility!
At this point it must be emphasized that artificial incubation is part art and part science. Understanding the principles of incubation alone will not guarantee success. The aviculturist must become experienced in recognizing subtleties revealed during candling and general handling of eggs and of dealing with problems with the incubators, whether they are machines or birds. The novice should always seek the advice of an experienced person and certainly Blue Crane eggs are not those to be practiced on. With better understanding of the needs of the cranes there will be more bred every year and aviculturists can contribute greatly not only to establishing them soundly in captivity but in providing much needed data on their breeding biology.
Once hatched, chicks must be shielded from seeing humans to prevent imprinting, until they are dry and can be returned to their parents, foster parents or be placed in an isolation rearing facility where crane look-alike puppets are used. It is important where possible, that incubator-hatched chicks are not reared in isolation from other cranes as this has a detrimental effect on their future breeding capacity. Bantams make good initial foster-parents but once again it is much better to have at least two crane chicks growing up together than singles. As soon as they are eating on their own, they should be placed in view of the adult birds for correct behavioral development. Isolation-rearing using puppets is the best form of artificial rearing. There are very few facilities that can offer this time-consuming and labour-intensive method in SA and at this point it is mainly used for the highly endangered Wattled Cranes, as birds reared in this fashion are ideal candidates for release back in to the wild.

The incubating Blue Crane is a very dedicated parent and will sit tightly on the eggs during its shift. In extremely hot weather they will get off the eggs but still crouch or stand over them to shield them from the sun. My female blue recently hatched her eggs after sitting out two violent hailstorms. She was pelted all over and had lacerations on her head but she did not get off her nest!

Tame birds are extremely protective and will attack anyone approaching their nesting territory too closely. Long- handled brooms are probably the best tool of defense when doing close inspections of breeding birds. I am often to be seen trying to fend off an attack from irate parents with open umbrellas and brooms held by my assistants. Everyone is very brave until the charge and then I suddenly find myself alone in the frontline with all the helpers hiding behind me in laager formation. All that can be seen from the back is big-eyed faces behind a screen of brooms and rakes with the boss shouting abuse at everyone because the umbrella has been inverted by the cranes and I am about to be pecked and clawed to shreds. Retreat in defeat is the only option at this point. The troops have to be encouraged (actually threatened) not to back off and then we try again! Cranes are dangerous birds particularly when breeding and especially to children. They can blind you with a peck to the eye and those on public display always need to be exhibited out of reach of visitors.

Both parents attend to the chicks and initially feed them with morsels offered from their beak-tips while they make a low-resonance purring sound that attracts the chick's attention. As they get older they learn to hunt for insects and eat on their own. During this flightless stage they are obviously prone to predation in the wild and they develop very fast to fledging stage which occurs anytime after 70 days. Interestingly, young cranes are known as Colts. It is vitally important that artificially raised chicks are seen to be drinking water on their own soon after hatching. Dehydration accounts for many deaths and the chicks don't always know what water is, even if they are standing in it! They can be coaxed by putting floating insects on the water to peck at or finally by dipping their beaks into the water. Crane chicks are excellent swimmers and can paddle about like ducklings. Swimming therapy is useful in correction of leg problems if detected early enough. They must be able to easily get out of drinking water containers otherwise they may become exhausted and drown

Food habits
Blue Cranes are omnivorous and probe the subsurface with their bills and take foods mostly from the soil surface or vegetation. In captivity there is a lot of food wastage due to loss to doves, sparrows and other feral birds. I saw a clever way of preventing this at Jersey Zoo in the Channel Isles. They used vertically placed 110mm PVC pipes that were approx 500mm high as feeding stations. The cranes soon learnt to reach down into these to retrieve their food.

Breeding diet
Because the chicks grow so rapidly it is important that the diet be nutritionally balanced. The recommended diet for handraising chicks has a protein content of < 24% and 0.73% sulphur amino-acids to slow growth and there-by reduce leg and wing abnormalities associated with higher protein levels. Chicks in the wild have a fairly harsh time and walk long distances with their parents while foraging and seldom have leg problems. This is often not the case in captivity and in smaller camps with too much food the legs often grow skew with ultimate fatal consequences. It would seem therefore that lack of exercise and overfeeding will likely cause leg problems so chicks should be kept on the lean side and be allowed to exercise as much as possible. Daily weight gains should not exceed 10-15%. After fledging the ration is reduced to a maintenance one with 15-19% protein. It appears that there may also be predisposing genetic factors that may cause leg deformities.

Captive birds, flight constraints & transportation
The various methods of flight constraint used in captive cranes have been the source of much debate and various rulings in the past and continue to be a contentious and controversial issue. It was initially believed that pinioned birds (last section of one wing is amputated to permanently prevent flight) were unable to mate properly thereby causing higher incidences of infertility. With the observance of mating rituals and more specifically of the mating process itself, comes the more recent knowledge that this is not true in the case of the Blue Crane. (and I believe with other species as well) As with all other cranes, the female crouches down to be mated with legs partially bent and the wings slightly extended to form a platform for the male to stand on. So the female can actually be pinioned on both wings and this will not affect successful mating, so long as she can form this small platform. The male must be able to hop onto the back of the crouched female and copulate with her. For this he needs to balance himself, as he maneuvers his tail beneath the raised tail of the female to make cloacal contact and he uses his extended wings to do this. Fully-flighted male birds (or properly wing clipped birds) are therefore at a seeming advantage at this point. Mainly for this reason, the last 3 primaries (long, outermost wing feathers) must never be cut in wing-clipped birds, especially males. Another important reason is because these feathers protect the blood-filled quills that develop when the bird is moulting. Without the old feather, the fragile new one has no protection and is easily damaged, being at the tip of the wing. Although this may seem unimportant, a broken blood-feather may cause excessive blood loss through continuous bleeding in a long feather such as the primary. Should a blood-quill become damaged it must be pulled out from the base to stem the bleeding.
Having said this however, the mating urge is extremely strong in bonded, healthy cranes and pinioned males are certainly not to be written off for breeding. These males persevere and quickly get their balancing act together, successfully copulate and produce fertile eggs with regularity in SA. Due to the good availability of land in SA, captive cranes are often kept in very large camps and paddocks. It is not feasible to leave them fully-flighted (but wing-clipped) as they then need to be caught every 6 months for wing-clipping. Not only is this a nuisance but it is very stressful to the bird and nervous individuals always run the risk of developing capture-myopathy. This is a paralysis-type condition (sometimes known as white muscle disease) brought on by lactic acid build-up in the muscles due to the stress of being caught and it is often fatal. Therefore unless they are kept in smaller net-covered camps (which drastically reduces natural foraging capacity) in which case they may remain fully flighted, it makes sense to pinion them. I suspect that limited foraging space and poor nutrition (the one often causes the other) are far more likely to cause poor fertility than pinioning. Younger pairs, as in many creatures, are also more likely to incur infertility while they learn the sex ropes. But like riding a bicycle, once you know how, you somehow never forget!

Transporting Cranes is a delicate procedure due to their being easily stressed. They should only be transported in specially designed vertical wooden crates with dimensions no larger than 950mm high x 400mm wide x 900mm long. The ceiling can be padded with foam to prevent injury to the top of the head. This prevents them from jumping and opening their wings. They should NOT be transported in sacks or loose in the back of a bakkie!

Crane organisations
There are a number of different organizations working towards crane conservation in South Africa. While they all share common objectives, and are therefore affiliated to one another, some work independently from the rest. In a nutshell, SACWG (South African Crane Working Group) is the coordinating crane body in South Africa and this body falls under the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust). Kerryn Morrison and Kevin McCann are the SACWG National Coordinators. The Highlands Crane Group is a project of SACWG. The KZNCF( Kwazulu-Natal Crane Foundation) which was formerly the SACF ( SA Crane Foundation) and the Overberg Crane Working Group are another two groups who although falling under the coordinating body of SACWG, have their own committees and fund themselves.

The formal "Captive Fraternity" i.e Zoological institutions, are represented by PAAZAB (Pan African Association of Zoos, Aquaria & Botanic Gardens) and more specifically by the APP (African Preservation Programme)

Then there are the various Provincial Nature Conservation bodies as well as various field workers from the different groups stationed around the country. So there certainly is a broad support base and a very keen drive to see the future of our cranes safeguarded. All of these organizations have taken their queue in one way or another from the highly acclaimed and successful ICF (International Crane Foundation) in the USA.

Lindy Rodwell of SACWG notes "Now that the focus in SA has shifted from fighting apartheid to fighting spiraling crime and ensuring that our fledgling democracy survives, the spot-light has failed to highlight environmental concerns. This has translated into severe budget cuts for all provincial conservation depts and the resultant collapse of the State conservation infrastructure and the defection of experienced staff poses arguably, the greatest threat to South African conservation this century.

Non-governmental conservation organizations such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and its working groups are now actively involved in damage limitation due to these budget cuts.

The role of the South African Crane Working Group (SACWG), together with landowners, farmers, farm workers, school children and 'crane custodian's from every walk of life, is to ensure the harmonious coexistence of cranes and people. We have extensively modified and invaded the grasslands and wetlands in which our cranes live and breed. Cranes are understandably attracted to our agricultural landscape, as it provides them with an abundant food source of edible crops and insect life."

In the early 1970's Rod Dorning of Fearnely Farm remembers there being 2000-3000 Blue Cranes on his farm alone. "It was the known thing to shoot these birds to get them out of the lands" In the 1980's there was a sudden change with farmers diversifying into larger maize fields and livestock. Agrochemicals became increasingly available and environmentally damaging ones were readily used. In addition the cheap protein source in Gromore chicken litter was attractive and thus arrived diseases like Newcastle etc which created sudden drops in Crane populations and other wild fowl like Guinea-fowl.

Today, many of the threats to the Blue Crane still exist. It appears that overhead power-cables pose arguably the single most lethal potential hazard at this time. It is very hard to determine exactly how many such casualties occur but there are seemingly many. The cables are difficult for the flying bird to see until it is too late to avoid a collision. If a bird is not killed instantly, then it is left to linger injured & helpless (usually broken wings) until its death from shock and starvation. I believe that ESKOM are collaborating with the Crane Groups to try and find solutions to alleviate this problem but I would imagine it to be a difficult one to solve. Marker-buoys that have been placed on some lines appear to have helped the birds see the otherwise invisible danger in front of them. I feel that this must surely be one of the moral obligations in terms of conservation issues at ESKOM.

Hideous poisoning by farmers still occurs with whole groups of birds being killed at a single bait site. Often the cranes are not even the target species intended for the poison. Illegal capture for the avicultural trade and for meat consumption in rural areas. Reported use as muti by traditional healers. Devastation of habitats through development and encroachment of civilization into crane territories. All of which compound to make the future of this majestic bird look very bleak at times.
Then on the other hand there are all those who are committed to fight for the secure future of our National Bird in one way or anther. They are collectively the Guardian Angels of all the cranes not just the Blue, and to all of them I am sure everyone offers much encouragement and hope for the future.

I quote Rich Beilfuss of the International Crane Foundation " The conservation of cranes in Africa depends on gaining accurate information about the status of the Cranes across the continent, reversing damage inflicted by the destructive development projects, and working with local communities to promote the sustainable management of wetlands and surrounding watersheds. To achieve these goals, we must bring together diverse groups of people, from government and village leaders to engineers, anthropologists and restoration ecologists, in a common cause. We must recognize that real conservation will only be achieved if it becomes a priority of the local people living with the cranes and sharing their rich habitats"
In conclusion I would like to end off with an extract from a book titled A Sand County Almanac by passionate conservationist Aldo Leopold. It is highly recommended by Janice O'Grady of the KZNCF.

"Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncap-tured by language. The quality of cranes lie, I think, in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words This much though can be said: our appreciation of the crane grows with the slow unravelling of earthly history. His tribe we now know, stems out of the remote Eocene. The other members of the fauna in which he originated are long since entombed within the hills. When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past,of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men"

McCann, K. Crane Link July '00 No 7 Blue Crane Movement Patterns in South Africa.
Rodwell, L. Crane Link Dec '00 No 8 Editorial
McCann, K. Results of 3rd National Crane Census-July '00
Rodwell, L. Southern African Cranes.
O'Grady, J. The Crane (newsletter of the KZNCF) Vol 11 No 3 Dec '00
Book review

O'Grady, J. Cranes in the Swartburg- A farmer's Perspective
Newman, K. Sappi- Newman's Birds of Southern Africa 7th Edition Struik '00
Ellis, D.Gee, G. Mirande, Claire 1996 Cranes: Their Biology, Husbandry, and Conservation.
Schoeman, F.R. African Regional Studbook for the Blue/Stanley Crane 7th Edition August '00. (Studbook Keeper)
Gibbon, G. Blue Crane Distribution map '01

South African Crane Working Group (SACWG). National Networking Co-ordinator Kerryn Morrison Tel 011-4861102, Fax 011-486 1506, Cell 082 877 5126

Blue Crane Regional Studbook Keeper. (Dr Ferdi Schoeman), National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, P.O. Box 754, Pretoria, 0001
Tel 012-328 3265, Fax 012- 323 4540

Avian Demography Unit (SA Bird Ringing Unit) - Dieter Oschadleus, University of Cape Town
Rondebosch, 7700
Tel 021- 6502421, Fax 021-6503434

E & L Enterprizes (stainless-steel rings)
Tel 035-7923746, Fax 035-7921034

International Crane Foundation
The crane husbandry manual can be downloaded from this site.

World Parrot Trust Cape Parrot Working Group South African Crane Working Group
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