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Grey-crowned crane numbers on a sharp rise in Rwanda

The number of wild grey-crowned cranes in Rwanda has reached impressive levels driven by measures that have contained the illegal trade of the endangered species.

Preliminary data of the latest annual national crane census by Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA) shows that the number of these birds has reached 748.  

This is higher than the past two years where the number of the endangered species were recorded at 459 and 487 in 2017 and 2018, respectively, thanks to the efforts of the community conservation champions.

The RWCA has not yet publicly shared the final report but Olivier Nsengimana, a renowned conservationist of grey cranes and the organization’s founder, said the census was completed a few days ago.

“The census was conducted in three days [August 13 -15] and it involved aerial surveys (counting cranes from the air). We flew with a helicopter over Akagera National park and Rugezi Marsh and [took] ground surveys in the rest of the country,” he told The New Times, adding that the final data is being analyzed to carefully understand the trend over time.

The teams were comprised of the organization’s staff and volunteers visiting the field across the country to track the long-legged birds.

Conservation of these species is one of the biggest activities of the organization.

Rugezi marshland in the Northern Province is one of the areas showing a rise in numbers, thanks to efforts to protect the species.

This, they say, suggests that there are better management and protection, as well as a reduction in the number of illegal activities, including the cutting of grass and grazing cows.

The number of juvenile cranes sighted across the country, too, is on a steep rise, which demonstrates an increase in breeding success.

A large number of cranes were also seen at the borders with neighboring countries, reflecting the need for increased cross-boundary collaboration and improved monitoring programmes, the preliminary report states.

Nsengimana believes that one of the actions that could help keep the numbers increasing was to make sure that no more cranes are captured and kept in captivity.

On the other hand, since cranes use wetlands for food and breeding, he suggests that there is a need to “protect some of our wetlands for cranes and other species” that share the same habitat.


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