The Wisdom of Cranes

Wisdom Tales – Crane Stories from Southern Africa, a book celebrating the ethos of cranes, was launched recently by the KZN Crane Foundation (KZNCF), beautifully illustrated by David Wheildon Oosthuizen.crowned crane dancing

Jenny Stipcich, lead author, said “My love affair with cranes began when I met the remarkable Ann Burke and realised how our South African cranes could be used as inspiration for learning about good values.”  David added “I am ashamed that I did not even know we had three crane species and it took an American woman (Ann) to teach me about them!”

r blue cranes dancing

Wisdom Tales fosters the proud tradition of African storytelling. Its lively stories, written for children and adults alike, reflect the embodied qualities of cranes highly valued by human cultures such as faithfulness and courage. The book also celebrates other creatures that share wetlands and grasslands with the cranes, including the cautious oribi, wise chameleon and watchful black-backed jackal.

r wisdom tales

Local authoress and educator, Jenny Stipcich and her sister, Viv Stacey, poet and spiritual teacher, combined efforts to write four of the tales. What wisdom can be learned from the Wattled Crane’s scarred face? Why do cranes live longer than most birds? What spiritual attitudes can be learned from the crisis caused by the destruction of our priceless wetlands? Author Gamalihle Sibanda’s delightful story illustrates the importance of patience and adaptation. Artist David Weildon Oosthuizen’s illustrations add vibrancy and warmth to the spirit of the stories with his inspired attention to detail.

david ann jen res

At the launch of the book at Fordoun recently, Ann (Project Manager KZNCF) said that the book was the result of long standing collective caring for these Midlands birds, since the establishment of the KZN Crane Foundation 24 years ago. “I believe this is due to recognition that cranes have lived with us for thousands of years – since we were hunters and gatherers and nowadays alongside us in human-transformed agricultural landscapes. When we spend time getting to know the cranes, we discover a deep-rooted respect for their beauty and grace and we begin to understand that cranes reflect some of our most valued human qualities –including parental nurturing and care, faithfulness, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.”

r fun at fordoun

The book was made possible through the assistance of Intrepid Printers in Pietermaritzburg and a grant from N3 Toll Concession (N3TC).

r david ann con fordoun

Andy Visser, N3TC’s Marketing Manager said, “We are privileged to be a part of this wonderful project and thrilled that by the end of this year, five hundred copies of Wisdom Tales will be distributed to local schools and environmental organisations. This resource should enhance awareness of South African children to their natural heritage and equip them with an understanding of the importance of wetlands not only for all the wild creatures, but for the fresh water they provide to human communities.”

r Andy and N3TC Board. JPG

Copies of Wisdom Tales are available for R150 at Lazy Lizard Books in the Greendale Acres Centre in Howick and at Fordoun Hotel and Spa, Nottingham Road. All proceeds from the first edition will benefit the KZN Crane Foundation.

Continuing the celebration, In ART Gallery in Nottingham Road will host the Spirit of the Crane Art Exhibition from 12 – 22 September. Hilary Grant Curie, Owner and Curator said, “When my husband and I first moved to Nottingham Road, I heard about the work of the KZNCF and their efforts to build a Nursery to rear endangered Wattled Crane chicks. I can remember flocks of Blue Cranes sharing the veld with my father’s cattle. It was a common sight and annual occurrence…. It saddens me that this is something my own children will likely never experience.”

r thami and monty

The KZNCF is currently constructing a Nursery to rear critically endangered Wattled Crane chicks for release into the wild in an effort to bolster South Africa’s remaining wild flock of 260 individuals. For the past 30 years, conservationists in North America have successfully released human-reared cranes into the wild using a technique called “costume-rearing.” This technique, consisting of human caretakers dressed in costumes and puppets, will be used to encourage young cranes to obtain skills necessary for survival in the wild. The Nursery is situated on the Bill Barnes Nature Reserve in Nottingham Road. The first chicks are expected in 2014. Proceeds from the Spirit of the Crane Art Exhibition will go towards the completion of the Nursery.

r crane nursery

The KZNCF is a non-profit conservation organisation established in 1989 to combat the causes leading to the decline of South Africa’s three crane species. The foundation is successfully fostering awareness of cranes and their dependence upon wetlands and grasslands through educational outreach and is currently preparing to rear and release Wattled Crane chicks back into the wild. The KZNCF owns and manages the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve (BBCONR) in Nottingham Road. To learn more, visit:

Hand rearing a crane chick


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