Conserving South Africa’s Endangered Cranes

The Endangered Wildlife Trust operates throughout southern and parts of Eastern Africa.  It conserves threatened species and ecosystems by initiating research and conservation action programmes; implementing projects which mitigate threats facing species diversity and supporting sustainable natural resource management.

The heart of Drakensberg is a world heritage site – an incredibly beautiful and rugged landscape – the backbone of South Africa’s Eastern Escarpment.  Here Grey Crowned cranes, Blue Cranes and Wattled Cranes are all threatened with extinction due to very real and severe threats. Loss of habitat, conflict with farmers, fracking and illegal removal from the wild all take their toll. The ambitious project will work with landowners and communities to expand the protected areas south of the world heritage site by at least 25,000ha. This will provide important safe spaces for these three crane species to thrive – through improved habitat management (by clearing at least 10 hectares of alien plants annually and implementing sustainable grazing) – and a buffer to the heritage site. The project will establish legal agreements with farmers, develop eco- and agri-tourism, create trails for running, walking and biking, and accommodation options, as well as a website for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Update

Work is well underway in expanding the Cedarville protected environment with 21,000 hectares in the process of being declared Nature Reserves.

A management plan has been created which outlines the priorities and plans for the management of the protected area, including the clearing of alien plants, specifically black wattle. The plan is awaiting government agency approval, and alien species clearance is planned for early 2019.

‘Cranes in the Classroom’ educational series is successfully running and engaging over 300 children in 11 schools.

‘Encounter East Griqualand’ trail run and mountain bike challenge was a huge success in October 2018 with nearly 100 participants and attracting over 600 people to attend and support farmers’ markets, entertainment shows and evening events and talks. The event was held as a ‘green’ event with only two bin bags of rubbish produced for the whole day.

Work is underway to identify and map trails for the development of four trail running, hiking and mountain biking routes. The next step will be to mark and stabilise the routes.

Image: Cranes at Sunset. Image credit: Davide Gaglio