Kerryn Morrison, manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s African Cranes, Wetlands and Communities programme (ACWAC) has been awarded the African Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (PAAZAB) Conservation Award. Kerryn 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 (Balearica pavonina), blue (Anthropoides paradisea), grey crowned (Balearica regulorum) and wattled (Bugeranus carunculatus) 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 survey data 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 41 and 53 percent, a loss of about 2 650 birds per year.
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.
The workshop highlighted the need to address poverty, harmful cultural beliefs, local level lack of awareness and community empowerment needs, while all agreed that a review of current legislation is needed to identify gaps and loopholes. ACWAC 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.