Entabeni Communications is proud to announce the historic hatching of two rare Wattled Crane chicks at their captive care facility located on the Hlatikulu Crane and Wetland Sanctuary in the vicinity of Giants Castle, KZN. Ann Burke of the KZN Crane Foundation compiled this report.
Wattled Crane parents, Elvi (female) and Amanzi (male – whose name means “water” in Zulu) have been together since January. Entabeni staff were greatly encouraged by the birds’ behaviour as it indicated strong compatibility. Nic Shaw, Director of Entabeni said; “We did everything we could to reduce disturbance to the pair to allow them time to establish a strong pair bond and feel secure in their territory. In May, we began to see increased dancing and unison calling.”
Elvi and Amanzi in January 2013
To our delight, Elvi laid two eggs, three days apart in mid-August.
Wattled Crane eggs
As the days of incubation lengthened, Entabeni staff couldn’t help but speculate – would the new pair produce fertile eggs? Were chicks in the future?
Then in the dark, morning hours of 15 September, Carma Shaw, Operations Manager, awoke to the sound of Wattled Cranes unison calling. At first light, the pair was checked and to everyone’s delight, a newly hatched, fuzzy brown chick was being carefully tended by its parents. The chick was named “Blake” after Robert Blake School in the UK; they adopted the pair’s first egg after a visit to Entabeni in July 2013.
Of the world’s 15 crane species, Wattled Cranes are the only species to hatch and rear a single chick in a season – even if the female lays two eggs. Since the 1980s, second laid eggs have been collected from wild Wattled Crane nests and used to build the captive breeding flock. Today, this flock is approximately 50 individuals. These naturally fertile eggs produced in captivity mark a milestone in the recovery efforts for this critically endangered bird in South Africa.
The pair was monitored closely to determine when they would stop incubating the second egg.
When Elvi and Amanzi began to devote full-time care to their new chick the following day, they stopped incubating their second egg. It was removed and temporarily placed under a broody hen name “Peach” for safe keeping.
Peach looking after her new charge
Peach is a hen rescued by renowned wildlife rehabilitator Pam Stuckenberg and was given to Entabeni for their Permaculture garden (sadly Pam passed away in May 2013). Peach offered warmth and safety until the artificial incubator was delivered by Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Carma Shaw, said, “Peach has previously hatched foster eggs – 15 at a time – and she is a fantastic brood hen so we weren’t worried about the safety of the egg at any time.”
Remains of egg (shell and waste products) after second chick hatched
The second egg hatched on 17 September 2013. This chick named “Trinity” is being hand-reared by Entabeni staff with the help of Ann Burke from the KZN Crane Foundation. It was named after Chilton Trinity School in the UK; they adopted the pair’s second egg after a visit to Entabeni in July 2013.
Trinity with Wattled Crane puppet at 5 days of age
Lara Jordon, Coordinator of the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme (WCRP) said, “We are thrilled by Entabeni’s landmark accomplishment. Since the inception of the WCRP in 2000, only one chick has been produced by naturally-fertile captive birds. This is the first time in the history of South Africa that a captive pair of Wattled Cranes have hatched and reared their own chick. Wattled Cranes are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity and Entabeni’s years of concerted efforts to breed this critically endangered species has finally paid rich dividends.”
Entabeni Communications has been a WCRP affiliate since 2000 and have been involved with crane conservation since its founding in 2001. Nic Shaw, Director of Entabeni commented, “We have two pairs of Wattled Cranes at our facility. Our approach is to reduce disturbance to the birds as much as possible to allow them to feel secure on their territories. We are so pleased the pair is fertile. We look forward to additional offspring in the future for the captive breeding programme while also providing eggs for release back into the wild.”
Carma and Nic Shaw and Sandi Barrett celebrate the hatchings at Entabeni Communications
The Hlatikulu Crane and Wetland Sanctuary is open to the public weekdays: 08h00-16h00 and Saturday and Sunday: 09h00 – 12h00. Public holidays by appointment only. The public is encouraged to make a booking by contacting the sanctuary at 0332632441 or 0824086610 or via email:firstname.lastname@example.org. GPS coordinates: S 29 16.484; E 29 39.899.
Entabeni Communication is one of the top environmental & outdoor education service providers in South Africa. In the past 17 years, Entabeni has hosted over 70 000 school children (and quite a few adults) on environmental learning programmes, leadership camps, curriculum-supported courses and fun school excursions. Our reputation is maintained through our professional service-oriented attitude, impeccable safety protocols and risk-assessment procedures, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff and our commitment to providing quality, meaningful, relevant and enjoyable environmental and outdoor learning experiences. To learn more, visit: http://www.enviroed.co.za.
Trinity at 12 days of age