Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan
Building Integrated Crane and Crane Habitat Conservation Programs
Cranes present excellent opportunities to build programs that combine various
conservation goals, activities, and techniques. As well known birds that serve
as “umbrella” and “flagship” species in many ecosystems around the world, they
are able to draw attention to, and provide protection for, a broad array of
other species as well as the ecological functions that maintain ecosystem health.
They exemplify the need to consider biodiversity at all levels—genetic, population,
species, community, and ecosystem—in designing and implementing conservation
programs. They also provide a focus for actions that address local development
and conservation needs in an integrated fashion.
Sections 2 and 3 provide many recommendations for priority conservation actions.
These recommendations have been developed on the premise that specific actions
should be undertaken in a well coordinated and mutually reinforcing manner.
Many tools are available to promote the protection, recovery, and perpetuation
of the world’s cranes, from establishment of protected areas and captive propagation
programs to habitat restoration and sustainable development projects. Choosing
which tools to use, in which combinations, is the key to success (Soulé 1991).
Fortunately, crane conservationists have over the last several decades gained
a great deal of experience and expertise in integrating conservation programs.
Many examples can be found in the species accounts in Section 2. Several basic
guiding principles can be derived from this experience.
These are only a few of the basic considerations that should be borne in mind
in undertaking the measures recommended in the following sections. The cranes,
along with much of the world’s biodiversity, will face difficult circumstances
in the coming decades. Although their survival—or, in some cases, recovery—cannot
be assured, there are steps that can be taken to enhance their chances. But these
steps will only be effective if those who are most concerned about and involved
in crane conservation coordinate their efforts well.
- In the long run, the conservation of cranes must be seen within a larger
landscape, watershed, or ecosystem context, and conservation activities must
be coordinated at these scales. This is important not only for avoiding conflicts
(as, for example, in areas where afforestation has resulted in the loss of
crane habitat), but to protect and restore the ecosystem functions that maintain
healthy habitat conditions. This includes not only wild landscapes, but those
areas where human activities are dominant.
- In situ conservation programs must be broadly conceived, and combine
legal protection, research, habitat protection and management, education,
community participation, and other components. All of these can and must contribute
to balanced programs that sustain crane populations, crane habitats, and local
- Ex situ (captive propagation and reintroduction) programs should
be undertaken only as a last resort, and not as a substitute for in situ
programs. Should ex situ programs become necessary, they should be
developed based on clear goals and management guidelines. Priority should
be placed on the maintenance and enhancement of genetic diversity within the
population, on safe and effective methods for reintroduction, and on the assurance
of high quality care for captive populations.
- Because most cranes are migratory, successful conservation requires clear
consensus on goals and responsibilities among parties from different parts
of the species range, constant communication of scientific information, and
support from international governments, institutions, and non-governmental
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