During previous trips to Kabale and Ntungamo Districts (Uganda) in 2011 and 2012, Osiman Mabhachi of The Endangered Wildlife Trust observed hundreds of Grey Crowned Cranes (flocks and pairs) in wetlands and agricultural landscapes. Though the sight of these pairs and flocks gave him a sense of hope and upliftment, the absence of chicks and juveniles was a major cause for concern. This made him speculate about the possible causes of such a phenomenon. Could it be that human disturbance made it difficult for pairs to nest? Did the pairs breed successfully and lose their chicks to predators? Were the chicks captured and sold?
When he visited the two districts last month (September), his observations changed the impression he had about the current status and future of cranes in the extensive wetlands found in the area. Jimmy Muheebwa (Nature Uganda’s Crane Conservation Project Coordinator) and Osiman visited the wetland sites they surveyed in 2011 and 2012. This time around, there was overwhelming evidence of breeding and fledging success. They sighted 12 pairs with juveniles. Three of the juveniles were evidently less than two months old. Though the other ones could fly, they could easily distinguish them from adults because their crowns were not fully-grown and they had no red patches at the top of their cheeks.
Whereas in 2011 and 2012 had questions why there were no chicks and juveniles, this year the focus of their discussion was on factors that contributed to this phenomenal breeding and fledging success. Under an ongoing project funded by the Whitley Fund for Nature, Jimmy will monitor the chicks and juveniles they observed. Jimmy has started introducing the concept of crane custodianship in the two districts so that the farmers on whose land cranes breed can monitor and protect the pairs and their offspring in seasons to come.