Spring has certainly sprung in the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Reserve (BBCOR), home of the KZN Crane Foundation (KZNCF). Sunday 14th was a beautiful morning to join fellow crane lovers and environmental enthusiasts for the 24th Annual General Meeting.
Acting Chair, Andrew Ferendinos, welcomed everyone, in particular the new committee members, commenting on the wealth of talent which these volunteers contribute to the organisation. He presented certificates of apreciation to people who had given great help to the organisation this past year – including: uMngeni Mayor Mbali Myeni, Steve Simpson of the uMngeni Municipality, Bill Howells, James Berning, Paddy Moon and also Andy Visser and Con Roux of N3 Toll Concession who are funders of various aspects of KZNCF work.
Ann Burke, Conservation and Reserve Manager gave a presentation on the history of the International Crane Foundation (ICF) and plans for the KZNCF. The ICF was established in 1973 in Ann’s home town of Baribou, Wisconsin. Ann worked there for many years, focussed particularly on their reproductive habits, discovering that if you remove the egg a female has just hatched, she will lay another. This was the beginning of their hand rearing programme. Baby cranes imprint on the colours and sounds their parents make, so since the early 1980s crane puppets have been used to raise the chicks.
The Wattled Crane Recovery Programme (which removes the second egg after the first has hatched) was established in 2000 and there are now 47 birds in the captive breeding project. The BBCOR is an ideal site for rearing and releasing chicks and a facility to do this has been planned. The KZNCF feel strongly that as a conservation organisation it was important to set an example and build a green building. Architect Marita Nell has designed a wonderful facility featuring a green roof, solar power and many energy saving devices. This project will also create jobs for “crane moms” and offer interns the opportunity to get hands on experience.Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) spoke about the 2012 Crane Breeding season and the success of their Annual Aerial Survey to locate the 70 known breeeding pairs of Wattled Cranes in KZN and count all the other crane species too. Half of all the Wattled Cranes in South Africa (about 240 individuals) are found west of the N3 in the Midlands. Ezemvelo have supported the project for the past 20 years making this one of the longest running surveys of its kind in the world.
She was pleased to report that there has been a steady increase in the Grey Crowned Crane population over the years. This is due to changes in agricultural practices, the use of fewer poisons, collaboration with Eskom on powerlines and also the fact that they are able to adapt to human created habitats. 3400 were seen this year. 934 Blue Cranes were spotted this year, mostly in the area around Kokstad.
Penny Rees from DUCT gave an overview of her walk along the length of the Mngeni river in May this year. From the pristine beginnings at uMngeni Vlei above Dargle and Fort Nottingham, through polluted urban areas, others impacted by poor farming practices and infested with invasive vegetation all the way to the sea. Penny illustrated the importance of conserving our water sources for the protection of cranes as well as all other living creatures. Everyone was fascinated to hear that the river was able to clean itself despite all the abuse if given a chance and will certainly think twice when buying uMngeni river sand at the hardware store in future.After lunch on the lawns beside the dam, an Oribi count was conducted in the Reserve. Twelve were spotted. The grasslands were filled with flowers – Dierama, Kniphofia, Delospermum, Gerbera, Helicrysum, Graderia and more. Care was taken not to disturb the Wattled Crane pair who have just hatched a chick.
Learn more about the work of the Crane Foundation at www.kzncrane.co.za