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African Wetlands and Cranes

The North Carolina Zoo has had strong connections with African crane and wetlands conservation since 1996. It was in 1996 that we first established links with the South African Crane Working Group (SACWG) and sent an adult female Wattled Crane to South Africa to be part of a captive breeding program. In 1999 we played a major role in sending eight developing Wattled Crane eggs to South Africa to further the captive breeding program in that country. That year we also provided funding for field associate Ann Burke to spend a year in South Africa to provide expertise and training for captive husbandry and wild release techniques. The Zoo also supported a three-year community education outreach program for Blue Cranes in the western Karoo region of South Africa and an international symposium on population and habitat viability (PHVA) for the Wattled Crane in July of 2000.

In the past few years significant development of African crane and wetlands conservation efforts has continued on multiple fronts. The SACWG has moved forward on several key action steps from the Wattled Crane PHVA, including crane banding, census, habitat use and habitat evaluation projects. Community education outreach programs have continued and expanded. A new joint initiative between the SACWG and the International Crane Foundation to form a network of crane conservation programs and build capacity in all African crane range countries has been established. This includes a community based conservation initiative involving local school wildlife clubs focused on Crowned Cranes and wetlands in the Bushenyi district of southwestern Uganda. The North Carolina Zoo funded this Ugandan community program. The Zoo also provided financial support for recently conducted research on the impact of wildlife trade on all African crane populations. This research and a summit meeting held to review the results of the research, will lead to proposals to an international regulatory body, CITES - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to limit trade and increase the level of protection for African crane species.