Could You be a Crane Mama?

Who wouldn’t want to spend hours sploshing about a wetland in all weather, mashing up mealworms, wearing a peculiar grey and white overall and at the same time making an important contribution to the survival of Wattled Cranes on our planet? Actually, you have to be a bit special to do this, and maybe you are.R IMG_9811

The KZN Crane Foundation is launching the new Wattled Crane Rearing Facility in Nottingham Road in July 2014 and need assistance for the rearing of Wattled Crane chicks this winter for four months. This is a really unique opportunity for someone who wants to make a significant contribution to conservation. Preference will be given to those who have experience in hand rearing birds, a good knowledge and interest in birds or have proven experience of arduous work with animals in challenging conditions. There is no stipend but basic accommodation is available. Local Crane enthusiasts are also able to support the foundation by committing to assist two days a week.
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“Costume-rearing” is a proven and effective technique which requires human caretakers to dress in crane costumes and mimic the behaviours of adult cranes in order to teach the youngsters the skills they need to survive in the wild. As chicks mature, the costumed caretakers take them for walks and teach them to forage for natural foods. The nursery is placed in the Wattled Cranes natural habitat, with wetland for walking, feeding and training.
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The Wattled Crane Recovery Programme (partners are: Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ), Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), KZN Wildlife and African association of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZAB)) aims to prevent the local extinction of Wattled Cranes in South Africa by creating a breeding flock of Wattled Cranes from abandoned eggs from the wild, and then releasing off-spring of the breeding flock back into the wild to help increase the wild population.
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Lara Jordan is the person to contact to find out how you can spend the winter nights sleeping near precious Wattled Crane infants and sunny days taking long-legged chicks for walks. nursery@kzncrane.co.za or cell: 0719035880

Wattled Cranes (Bugeranus carunculatus) are one of the five Critically Endangered birds in South Africa. In July 2000 concern over the species decline and its potential genetic uniqueness in South Africa prompted a Population and Habitat Viability Assessment Workshop. Out of this workshop it was determined that a captive program should be initiated to ensure its survival. After 13 years we have secured a captive population with specialists working towards sustainability of the population through breeding and artificial insemination techniques. The captive population was brought into captivity through rescuing second eggs from the wild (eggs that are only laid as a biological insurance and then are abandoned on hatch of the first chick).
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Plight of the Wattled Crane: Wattled Cranes are the rarest crane on the African continent and are currently listed as Critically Endangered in South Africa. Wattled Cranes formerly occurred throughout much of the country, extending from the northern borders to the western parts of the Cape Province. Today a scarce 260 or so individuals currently remain in South Africa, the vast majority of which occur in isolated pockets of the KwaZulu-Natal midlands. Wattled Cranes have already become locally extinct in Lesotho and Swaziland. The Wattled Crane Recovery Programme aims to prevent the local extinction of Wattled Cranes in South Africa by creating a breeding flock of Wattled Cranes from abandoned eggs from the wild, and then releasing off-spring of the breeding flock back into the wild to help increase the wild population. The Wattled Crane Recovery Programme is a member of the IUCN Re-introduction Specialist Group and is branded by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Costume Rearing Wattled Cranes for Release into the Wild For the past thirty-three years, conservationists in North America have been successful in saving endangered crane populations from extinction by releasing human-reared cranes into the wild using a technique called “costume-rearing” or “puppet-rearing”. Feasibility trials were conducted in 2000 to assess the potential for using this technique to increase South Africa’s Wattled Crane population. Three (3) isolation-reared Wattled Crane chicks were released and successfully integrated into wild Wattled Crane flock in KwaZulu-Natal. “Costume-rearing” consists of human caretakers who dress in crane costumes and mimic the behaviours of adult cranes thereby teaching them the skills they need to survive in the wild. Once the chicks are old enough to fly, they are released into existing wild Wattled Crane flocks. Crane chicks must be reared in strict isolation to ensure that they believe they are cranes so they can fully integrate into the wild flocks.
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The Wattled Crane Nursery will be used for rearing of Wattled Crane chicks destined for release into existing floater flocks and is based on the proven Wattled Crane Nursery at the Johannesburg Zoo. As chicks mature, the costumed caretakers will begin taking them for walks in the wetland surrounding the Wattled Crane Nursery to teach them to forage for natural foods. Chicks will remain in the Wattled Crane Nursery until they are old enough to withstand the cold mid-lands winters at which time, they will be moved to a roosting pen where they will be taught to roost in standing water to avoid predation. The nursery is beautifully placed in the Wattled Cranes natural habitat, with wetland for walking, feeding and training. The nursery consists of underfloor heating to ensure the building do not chill if there is a power cut. The indoor areas will also have heat lamps in each enclosure. The door systems are on a roller system so they can be stopped at any height. There is sleeping quarters for two volunteers with bathroom and small kitchen facilities. The volunteers will cook and relax at the main Usher Conservation Center and will just sleep at night by the chicks so that they can hear any alarms that may be triggered. Indoor night rooms along main corridor The small dome by the rearing facility will be used for exercising young chicks are used for when chicks that need to hunker down whilst a chick mum walks another chick.

Wattled Crane Roosting Pen In the wild, Wattled Cranes roost (sleep) in water to avoid being attacked by predators at night. Costume-reared Wattled Crane chicks are taught to roost in water by placing them in a roosting pen in the evenings so they will learn to seek the safety of water once they are released into the wild. A small damlet has been constructed off the main dam on the reserve. A roosting pen will be built inside this damlet. The roosting pen is predator proofed using wire of two layers shade cloth and then outer perimeter fence to prevent predators such as Jackal coming close to the roosting birds.

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During 2013 the crane rearing facility was funded and built by the KZN Crane Foundation. This facility will start rearing chicks in June 2014 initially for captivity and then for release in the season of 2015. The overall aim of the project in 2014 is to:

  • Furnish the interior of the crane facility by the 2nd week of June.
  • To rear birds for captivity in the new facility.
  • To train volunteers and staff on rearing techniques.
  • To track wild young birds moving into the floater flocks for understanding what normal behavior looks like.
  • To analyse diets of wild birds and captive
  • To test tracking equipment for implementation this season August/September.

Looking ahead, the project is aiming toward releasing hand-reared second-hatched chicks in 2016 and beyond in order to move forward with the supplementation side of the project. If you are interested in supporting our efforts please contact us on Lara Jordan on: Cell: 0719035880 E-mail: nursery@kzncrane.co.zaR IMG_9742

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2 thoughts on “Could You be a Crane Mama?

  1. Bruce Forrest

    I tried to join the KZNCraneFloatingFlock group but could not get on . Ryne advised me to go there to join . We have a small holding at Rosetta on the Mooi River where we have Crowned Cranes . Can someone help us to join

    Like

    Reply

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