Saving the grey crowned crane

Grey crowned cranes are one of only two species of cranes that can roost in trees. Photo courtesy of the International Crane Foundation.

Crowned cranes were once widespread through eastern and southern Africa, but poaching and habitat changes have drastically reduced their populations. The grey crowned crane is now endangered. For example, in Rwanda its numbers have gone from 1,000 about a decade ago to 500 now.

One person working to change that is Olivier Nsengimana, a Rwandan wildlife veterinarian who spent many childhood afternoons at the local marsh watching the cranes dancing.  He recently received a Rolex Award for Enterprise grant to persuade people who keep the birds as pets – which is illegal – to take advantage of an amnesty program and relinquish them to a rehabilitation center, with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. “People are already coming forward to surrender their cranes,” he says.

He is also working on a national media campaign to educate people about how they can protect endangered species. And he wants to develop a comic book to give to children who live around the marshlands where cranes breed, so that they understand the great value of these birds and other local species and grow up to play an important role in the conservation of their land.