The Three Cranes and their Landowner Custodians

Article from the KZN Crane Foundation‘s Summer Newsletter and written by Charlie MacGillivray, Chairman of the Karkloof Conservancy and KZNCF Committee Member.


"First world and hi-tech farming operations, with high input and high output (yields), can operate cheek by jowl with some of the endangered (red data) species of birds such as the Blue, Grey Crowned and the criticalled endangered Wattled Cranes" Charlie MacGillivray

For many Farmers, there is a very real sense of pride and more importantly “ownership” of the flocks of some, or in fact where fortunate, all three of these stately birds occur.

Grey Crowned Cranes on Loskop farm in the Karkloof

Grey Crowned Cranes on Loskop farm in the Karkloof

This privilege is often recognised by Custodian signs and ought to be regarded as a fulfilment of symbiotic co-existence and success.

Many farmers in the Karkloof are recognised as Crane Custodians.

Many farmers in the Karkloof are recognised as Crane Custodians.

Cranes are truly magnificent birds and beautiful to behold. They depict humour in their behaviour, grace in flight and delight in song.

Grey Crowned Cranes gossiping - By Patrick Cahill

Grey Crowned Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

Blue Cranes dancing on Colbourne farm - By John Hill

Blue Cranes dancing on Colbourne farm – By John Hill

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre - By Patrick Cahill

Pair of Wattled Cranes at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

The real thrill for me and I know for many landowners fortunate (thoughtful) enough to have these graceful inhabitants, is that with a little care and courtesy, there is room for ALL of us. Our yardstick being their continued proliferation, with increasing flock sizes in as many different localities as possible.

Large flock of about 50 to 60 Grey Crowned Cranes are often seen in the Karkloof.

A large flock of about 50 to 60 Grey Crowned Cranes are often seen in the Karkloof.

The real threat and the cause of the dire dearth of the flocks of yore, is because their ideal habitats have been transformed by agricultural (and lifestyle) use and in some cases misuse. Here forestry is also seriously implicated.

This delightful picture by the learners of Gartmore Primary School depicts the 3 crane species in an agricultural environment. A common sighting for most of the children.

This delightful picture by the learners of Gartmore Primary School depicts the 3 crane species in an agricultural environment.

It is not always blatantly wilful actions, but often through ignorance by failing to ask ourselves the obvious question, “What will be the consequence if I proceed with what and how I/we do things?”

Blue Crane at the Karkloof Conservation Centre - By Patrick Cahill

Blue Crane at the Karkloof Conservation Centre – By Patrick Cahill

We need to be more attuned to the dependence and interdependence of ALL components of our environment to ensure the integrity of bio-diversity. More emphasis on the primary organisms of our eco-systems, and the role played in ensuring sustainability further up the “food chain”.

Ren Stubbs, a member of the Karkloof Conservancy, showing the earthworms which is No-Till farmings greatest ally.

Earthworms are No-Till farmings greatest ally.

Landowners hold the trump card in the proliferation of our precious Cranes, and it is our role to help where there is some ignorance, encourage and assist where there is uncertainty, and to exercise influence on as many people as possible, to ensure the future of our threatened populations.

Blue Cranes on Gartmore Farm

Blue Cranes on Gartmore Farm

The respective calls of the three Cranes serve as our commentary on the success of our endeavours, and should remain the highlight of any day.

A pair of Wattled Cranes with their offspring on Gartmore Farm.

A pair of Wattled Cranes with their offspring on Gartmore Farm.

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4 thoughts on “The Three Cranes and their Landowner Custodians

  1. David Clulow

    May the people of the Karkloof continue to support the survival, and increase in numbers, of all three Crane species. May their enthusiasm be infectious and grow so the Karkloof will act as a beacon for many other areas. Sadly, I add, may the occasonal negative actions of the few in some parts of the country be firmly discouraged by suitable and severe treatment

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  2. Paul Van Uytrecht

    Glad to see that you put “ownership” in parentheses. I hope that one day we will see all farmers thinking of their relationship with “their” land in terms of concepts of trusteeship, where they have a duty not only to make use of land efficiently and effectively but also to promote environmental issues and in particular, bio-diversity.

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