The 2011 Wattled Crane breeding season has been a bumper season thus far! We have managed to complete two aerial surveys, thanks to Ezemvelo KZN
Wildlife and The Bateleurs, to record the breeding status of the known breeding pairs in the province.
This has helped facilitate the successful collection of 6 abandoned ‘second eggs’, of which all have hatched and are doing well under the care of Johannesburg Zoo. Wattled Crane pairs may lay two eggs, however only they only ever hatch and raise one chick, thereby leaving the second egg to die. As a partner in the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme, the EWT is responsible for the second egg collections and, in the future, post-release monitoring of birds released back into the wild. When a nest with two eggs is located then I visit the nest to measure and weigh the eggs in order to determine a hatch date for each egg, the nest is then revisited on the hatch date of the first egg, so that the second egg can be collected once the first egg has hatched.
All six of the chicks are doing very well and are walking several hours a day…keeping both themselves and their handlers very fit!
In conjunction to the egg collections we have caught and colour ringed three Wattled Crane chicks. Each bird has been fitted with a unique colour combination of rings and will serve as their ‘I.D book’ for the rest of their lives. The colour ringing gives us valuable infomation about the population including movement, longevity, age-specific mortality, age of first breeding and ‘partnerships’.
Obviously, Wattled Cranes are heavily dependent on wetlands for breeding, and even more specifically they require open water within these wetlands to build their nests. It is therefore vitally important that we work tirelessly to conserve or rehabilitate this scarce commodity. We therefore work very closely with the Mondi Wetlands Programme, Working for Wetlands, and the KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme to achieve this. We are in the process of completing ‘Wet-health’ assessments on currently and historically breeding wetlands. The photo below is the team conducting a ‘Wet-health’ assessment….even in weather conditions only suitable for sitting on a couch and drinking hot chocolate.
Until we meet again… hope you enjoyed the read!