THE GREY CROWNED CRANE. By Noel Akinyi
The grey crowned crane is wild a long-legged bird mainly grey in colour, white wings with patches of black at the top, fascinating straw-like golden crown, white sides of the face, red gular sac at the bottom of the chin that stretches to store food while searching, and a short grey bill. A normal crane is about 3.3ft tall and weighs 3.5kgs/7.7lbs with a wingspan of 6.5ft. The crane’s lifespan is 22 to 25 years.
The crane’s Swahili name is Korongo taji kijivu. Few of us Millennials, refer to it as Ndege ya M7 (President Museveni’s Bird)as it is the National bird of Uganda, evident on the Ugandan flag.
This bird is a symbol of Beauty, wealth, longevity and good fortune, and now an indicator of the state of our environment (No cranes means land with no wet areas).
They can fly but spend 80 per cent of their time on the ground, as they occur on grassy flatlands in Kenya and Uganda but most importantly, nest and breed in wetlands or close to water bodies. They also appear to rest and sleep on trees to avoid terrestrial predators such as dogs.
The cranes feed on grass tips, small fish, lizards, crops, seeds, frogs, worms, snakes, eggs of the aquatic animals and insects from the feet of elephants as they graze.
They are very social birds as they flock in groups of 30-150. They are non-migratory but move in search of wetlands for food, and habitat due to destruction through drainage, overgrazing, pesticide pollution which poisons them in turn and human settlement destabilizes them.
In Central Kenya, last year, Lake Ol Bolossat on the slopes of the Aberdare Ranges, was home for 900 grey crowned cranes which are said to have drastically reduced in number due to various reasons.
Loss of partners means the end of breeding for the grey crowned crane. They are just like us; they need freedom to choose mates. You surely don’t wanna dance for everyone! Dating is fun for them.They dance, jump, bow and bow (unnecessarily) for their partners.We cannot take this away from them.
Breeding is the most important stage of these beautiful birds’ lives, because they multiply and that’s what we need as wildlife conservationists. In Pairs, they make a circular nest of reeds flattened with grass for their eggs. Surprisingly, they annually return to this wet spot for breeding and, thus development on swampy land may mean no more breeding.
‘Between December 2015 – February 2017 out of 900 cranes that flocked Lake Ol Bolossat only 2 chicks hatched in the past two breeding seasons’ said George Ngung’u, Founder of Nyahururu Bird Club. He also said as Kenyans, we know very little about our Grey crowned cranes and I Agree because shockingly the numbers are unknown to date!
What is the solution?
Let’s start conservation projects that fight to protect the grey crowned crane and all endangered wildlife population. Store natural flood water to provide food and breeding areas for the grey crowned cranes.
Conserve and restore the wetlands, agree to conserve a number of wetlands around the crane community especially the Rift Valley.
Restore roost sites by planting more native trees regularly as county governments and country as a whole.
Rift valley is humongously involved; I suggest the county governments involved should develop laws that protect wetlands, and concerning development options around these special areas.Encourage developers to protect the habitats and value of these wetlands to avoid degradation as the construct projects.
Reduce the amount of fertilizer and pesticides used around these important areas that host the cranes.To restore the quality and quantity of water.
Spread the word; join us, the Eden Stewards, in the effort to save these beautiful birds for our future generations and the beauty of our land. To raise awareness;
Put up workshops to educate Kenyans.
Tell stories to kids through comic books, to learn about the importance of wildlife conservation.
Use lifestyle magazines to advertise the areas as best travel destinations to enjoy nature and appreciate wildlife more. You will get to enjoy their sights and honk sounds, the entertaining mating tradition.
We can make, sale and buy t-shirts and hoodies printed on the endangered animals, i.e the grey crowned cranShare pictures of the cranes on social media , twitter, with #ProtectTheGreyCrownedCraneKe .Enjoy!