Highly Revered, Highly Endangered: The Grey Crowned Crane

These regal and majestic looking birds roam the savannah, love grasslands, nest in wetlands and roost in trees. With white cheeks, yellow crowns tipped with black, and pale grey eyes, the stunning grey-crowned crane has gained recognition in the political rounds: they’re the national bird of Uganda; and as they symbolise wealth and longevity, have become trophy pets for the Rwandan elite. as a sign of wealth and longevity. Their demand and the subsequent illegal crane trade has significantly contributed to their fast dwindling numbers. Globally, there are only 30,000 left. In Rwanda alone, there are fewer than 500.

The grey-crowned crane is the fastest declining species of crane in the world.

The trade takes these birds from the wild for domestication and are onsold to captive trade markets. Along with habitat loss, these are the key reasons why this species is now the fastest declining species of crane in the world. 85% have disappeared in 4 decades and there are only 30,000 left.

The illegal crane trade and habitat loss are the main drivers for this bird’s fast and critical decline.

In Rwanda, veterinarian Olivier Nsengimana runs a nation-wide program to promote awareness and education of these endangered birds and has set up a crane registry to identify captive birds, and works to return these illegal kept birds back to the wild via his rehabilitation centre in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park. The International Crane Foundation works in collaboration with the Endangered Wildlife Trust to engage communities in the conservation of their wetland habitats.

As conservation efforts continue, this bird’s existence remains fragile.

IUCN Red List Category: Endangered

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