Adalbert Aine-omucunguzi, East African Regional Manage, African Crane Conservation Programme
Grey Crowned Cranes (Balearica regulorum) have declined by up to 80% over the last 25 years, and this is particularly evident across their stronghold in East Africa. One of the key objectives of the African Crane Conservation Programme is the stabilisation of the East African Grey Crowned Crane at key sites. One of these key sites in Rwanda is the Rugezi Marsh. Our programme in Rwanda is working towards securing and improving the ecological integrity of the marsh, and other key wetlands of importance where Grey Crowned Cranes live. This is done through various interventions, including public awareness, which has a school component. In September 2017, competitions were organised for students in participating schools to showcase Grey Crowned Crane conservation interventions that work well. The theme of the competition was “Conserving Grey Crowned Cranes through wetland protection” and the prize for the winners was a fully funded trip to Akagera National Park. Nine schools participated in the competition and GS Nkanga Secondary School emerged as the winners.
On the much anticipated day of the trip, the excited students, clad in t shirts with pictures of Grey Crowned Cranes, and their teachers boarded a bus at 6am and headed for Akagera, singing songs about crane conservation. This was only the beginning of a fantastic excursion. The students were amazed by all that they saw in the park, including released Grey Crowned Cranes, rhinos, buffalos, elephants, zebras, and various reptiles. They exchanged different ideas with experts in conservation and of course came out determined to encourage other students to contribute to the conservation of Endangered Grey Crowned Cranes. These students are now ambassadors of Grey Crowned Crane conservation both at school and in communities.
This work is done in partnership with the International Crane Foundation.