I am currently at the International Crane Foundation (ICF), the EWT’s partner in the African Crane Conservation Programme. The ICF is based on a farm close to the small town of Baraboo in Wisconsin in the USA. The ICF head quarters is a key center of expertise, experience and science on cranes and their ecosystems; has an incredible library of crane information from around the world; showcases all 15 crane species of the world to the public; has a breeding centre for the world’s threatened cranes, including the Critically Endangered Whooping Crane; and has a long-term monitoring and research project based around the small town of Briggsville close by, where a strong population of Sandhill Cranes is found. It is from here that ICF coordinates, drives and supports research and conservation action for cranes around the world.
Currently working on a strategic plan for the organisation for the next 20 years, I could not help today (during a full day’s workshop on the strategy) to feel in awe of what ICF is and what it has already achieved through a very committed, passionate and highly skilled team across the world. It is really exciting that the EWT is so strongly linked to the ICF, with the resources available within its network to help us develop further, grow and contribute significantly to crane conservation on the African continent.
As one looks at the Africa programme and where the priorities for crane conservation are on the continent, I do at times feel overwhelmed. Within Africa, we have four of the world’s most threatened crane species (Blue, Grey Crowned, Black Crowned and Wattled Cranes), each requiring significant effort to secure their future. However, I believe strongly that the African Crane Conservation Programme team is developing strongly and know that over the next few years, we will increase the number of projects and initiatives we have in Africa – one step at a time. The challenge now is deciding where to take our first steps beyond the projects we currently operate in South Africa and the community project support we provide in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
Over the next few weeks, I will share with you a summary of each of the four cranes that we focus on in Africa and the challenges we face and successes we have seen.