In 2008 Kerryn Morrison, manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's African Cranes, Wetlands and Communities programme (ACWAC) was the recipient of the African Association of Zoos and Aquariums (PAAZAB) Conservation Award. Morrison was recognised for her unstinting efforts to implement the African Crane Trade Project, focusing on the threats posed to Africa's declining crane populations by the removal of cranes from the wild and illegal trade.
The nomination described Kerryn as a dedicated, far-sighted individual with diplomatic coordination skills, and highlighted Kerryn's role in showing how local and international zoos can be a part of the solution to declining wild crane populations, rather than part of the problem contributing to this decline.
Initial investigations in the African Crane Trade Project have shown that the four African crane species, namely the Black Crowned, Blue , Grey Crowned (Balearica regulorum) and Wattled Cranes, are all affected by illegal removal from the wild for food, traditional use, domestication and illegal trade markets. Poisoning, collision with powerlines and habitat loss place further strain on African cranes.
According to a survey conducted over the past 20 years, the decline in the Black Crowned Crane population has been between 22 and 33 percent, a loss of about 1 100 birds a year; and in the Grey Crowned Crane population, between 46 and 53 percent, a loss of about 2 650 birds per year. The world saw its fastest decrease of crane species with a 85 percent drop in the Grey Crowned Crane species, over the last 30 years.
Furthermore, recent surveys in countries long thought to be strongholds for Wattled cranes, namely Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia, show that the global Wattled Crane population is only half of what has been reported in recent years.
A workshop was held in Naivasha, Kenya last year to develop a mitigation plan for the protection of African cranes. Facilitated by the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) southern Africa, the workshop hosted 25 participants from eight countries, representing local communities, NGOs, universities, governments and zoos.
African Cranes Wetlands And Communities is a joint initiative between the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and the International Crane Foundation (ICF). It aims to conserve cranes and their habitats, by promoting cooperation among African nations, in partnership with the people who depend on these same habitats for their livelihoods. In addition to the African Crane Trade Project, the programme is planning the development of a satellite tracking project for wattled Cranes across the southern African subregion, to be coordinated under the African Wattled Crane Programme.
The African Crane Trade Project is developing a model program to decrease the impact of captive crane trade on wild cranes, by targeting supply demand within Africa globally. The distribution of the Black and Wattled Cranes also transcends boundaries of many countries.
South Africa is the main stronghold for the blue crane, it is home to a number of 20 000 birds. The endangered Grey Crowned Crane is found across 13 countries in eastern and southern Africa, including South Africa. There are populations of Grey Crowned Cranes in rural landscapes in Eastern Cape.
Continuous research and monitoring are managed by the EWT to establish other innovative mitigation to protect the crane.