Marked by stiff gold colored feathers on the head, grey and relatively short bill not forgetting the long legs that help to wade through the grasses, the grey crowned crane is indeed fascinating bird species that have been of special interest to both the locals and Uganda Safari undertakers.
their striking beauty must have formed the background for its selection
as a national symbolic bird appearing on the Uganda Flag and the Uganda
Court of Arms. However, it is very unfortunate to note that despite the
Grey Crowned Crane’s striking beauty, calmness, popularity and
profoundness among the travelers on Uganda Safaris, it is at the risk of getting extinct.
Grey Crowned Crane’s population has drastically reduced over the last
four (4) decades and surprisingly, this bird species that once spread
all over the country, their current population is estimated between
10,000 to 20,000 Gray Crowned Cranes which is far less 100,000 that were
estimated about four (4) decades past according to the statistics from
Nature Uganda and Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.
count of 15 Gray Crowned Cranes thrive in the world and the African
Continent majorly features two Species namely; the East African crested
crane also referred to as Balearica regulorum gibbericeps thriving in
the nations of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of
Congo, Burundi, and Mozambique and the Southern African species also
known as Balearica regulorum regulorum that majorly thrives in Zimbabwe
and South Africa.
The considerable decline has been recorded among
the East African Sub species and according to the Director of
Environmental Affairs at the Uganda’s Ministry of Water and Environment
Paul Mafabi, these species have for example reduced from 35,000 to a
range of 20,000 – 25,000 in Kenya in the three (3) decades while less
than 1,000 crested cranes thrive in each of the remaining East African
nations of Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. As a result of this trend, the
International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was prompted to
include the Grey Crowned Cranes on the endangered species list in 2012.
Many conservationists, tourism industry players including those that do birding safari tours in Uganda have
attempted to ascertain what could be the drive behind this trend and
the answer is majorly the Habitat loss. The seasonal wetlands along with
swamps that used to provide ideal breeding ground for Grey Crowned
Cranes have been encroached on for Agriculture, construction and other
land developments. These Species feed on grass seeds, frogs, insects,
small toads along with other invertebrates and this food is common in
wetlands, river banks, open grassland and around dams which definitely
makes the areas habitats for Grey Crowned Cranes. Unfortunately, these
species have unique nesting patterns as they usually return to the same
spot every year and thus any destruction or threat to such places
definitely affects breeding patterns thus affecting their continuity.
causes of Grey Crowned Crane’s population decline include; conflict
with humans over crop damage, capture for pets, their monogamous nature
in which they pair once and any loss of partner marks the end of the
breeding and failure to breed in captivity.
Several efforts are
being put in place to ensure the survival of these species and Nature
Uganda intends to gather 1.2 Billion Uganda Shillings over a spread of
five years for Grey Crowned Crane habitat restoration and conservation.
By Siima Simon Peter