African Crane Trade Project

To reduce the impact of the captive trade on wild crane populations in Africa by targeting supply and demand


Unsubstantiated reports on the illegal trade in cranes increased in the mid 1990s to early 2000s. Short-term in situ studies conducted in Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania in the early to mid 2000s highlighted the fact that the rumours were true and that in fact large numbers of cranes were being exported. These studies then formed the basis of the African Crane Trade Project, which has developed and has been adapted regularly since then.


In addition, grey (Balearica regulorum) and black (Balearica pavonina) crowned cranes have declined significantly over the last three decades, resulting in both of these species being uplisted to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The uplisting was as a result of declines between 46 and 53% for grey crowned cranes and between 22 and 33% for black crowned cranes. More recent analyses, however, indicate that the grey crowned crane population has declined by up to 85% over the past 30 years, making it the world's fastest declining crane species and highly likely a candidate for Endangered status. Recent studies in West and East Africa strongly suggest that the illegal removal of these cranes from the wild is actually the primary threat to both species. Blue (Anthropoides paradiseus) and wattled (Budgeranus carunculatus) cranes have also both been seen in the international trade in cranes and this threat, although not currently a key threat to these species, is increasing.


Therefore, the overall objective is to develop a model programme to reduce the impact of the captive trade on wild crane populations in Africa by targeting supply and demand.


To achieve this, our main goals will be the following:

  • Create broad-scale international awareness of Africa's resident cranes and the threat that trade poses.
  • Continually obtain an improved understanding of the trade in cranes at both the supply and demand side, and adapt and develop mitigation measures as required.


WAZA Conservation Project 10005 is implemented by the International Crane Foundation / Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership. The project is supported by SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, Chester Zoo's Keeper for a Day Fund, North Carolina Zoo and Johannesburg Zoo. Other stakeholders involved in this project include Nature Uganda, University of Nairobi, Sudanese Wildlife Society, Tanzania Bird Atlas Project, AP Leventis Ornithological Institute in Nigeria, Wetlands International and Traffic, as well as individual zoos and regional zoo associations internationally that hold large numbers of African cranes.




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