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The Cranes

Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan

Recommended Actions at the Global Level

  1. Support programs to integrate crane and wetland/grassland conservation with sustainable economic development at the local level.

    Throughout the world, the long-term needs of cranes, their habitats, and local people and communities are threatened by inappropriate development of grasslands, wetlands, and river systems. At the same time, many protected areas that have been established to safeguard cranes and their habitats have not been managed in such a way as to address threats from surrounding land uses, nor have managers of protected areas taken advantage of opportunities to work with local communities on sustainable development projects. In recent years, however, there has been a growing realization that local economic development strategies and conservation measures for cranes and their habitats can and must be integrated. Cranes and critical wetlands that provide crane habitat have already served as the focal point for several specific sustainable development projects in the Kafue Flats of Zambia, at China’s Cao Hai Nature Reserve, at Vietnam’s Tram Chim National Reserve, in the Amur River basin along the China-Russia border. Opportunities exist for many other integrated conservation programs to be developed. Support should be given to development of these innovative programs, which provide lasting benefits for cranes, and for the people and local communities with which they coexist.

  2. Develop and implement integrated, watershed-scale conservation programs for important river systems and wetland complexes.

    A number of river and wetland systems are of special importance for one or more species of cranes, and for regional biodiversity in general. In many cases, these systems are also under increasing demand from growing human population and development pressures. Cranes can, and in many cases have, provided a focus for conservation programs in these areas. However, the challenge of maintaining the biological diversity, hydrological functions, and ecological processes of these systems, and of sustainably managing the economic resources they provide, is a larger-scale and longer-term undertaking. For this reason, crane and wetland conservationists in these areas will need to join with other conservationists, scientists, local communities, administrators, officials, and other supporting individuals and organizations to craft integrated conservation programs. In a few cases, the preparation and implementation of such programs may already be underway; in others, they have yet to be initiated.

    River and wetland complexes that are of global scale importance to the future well being of the world’s cranes include:

    Watershed-scale planning is no less important for the smaller river and wetland complexes in these regions. Crane and wetland conservationists should work with other conservation and development planners to promote coordinated policies and actions that will benefit cranes, other elements of biodiversity, and the local communities in these areas.

  3. Encourage the signing and ratification of the Ramsar Convention in countries where this has not yet occurred, and full implementation of its provisions in signatory countries.

    In the long run, the fate of most of the world’s cranes rests upon actions taken to protect, maintain, and restore healthy wetlands. A key step in assuring a viable future for cranes and other wetland-dependent species is adoption and implementation of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, Especially Waterfowl Habitat (the Ramsar Convention). Especially important are provisions in the Convention that require signatory countries to include wetland conservation considerations in natural resource planning, to designate Wetlands of International Importance, and to promote wetland conservation through the establishment of protected areas. The obligations outlined in the Convention provide an important foundation upon which detailed crane conservation strategies can be developed at the national and regional levels. Table 3.2 shows the countries that have signed the Ramsar Convention (as of 31 May 1996).

    Table 3.2 Ramsar List of Convention Wetlands of International Importance
    Country     Date convention    
    into force
    # sites (hectares)
    1. Albania     29.03.96 1 20,000
    2. Algeria 04.03.84 2 4,900
    3. Argentina 04.09.92 5 176,074
    4. Armenia 06.11.93 2 492,239
    5. Australia 21.12.75 49 5,039,121
    6. Austria     16.04.83 8 102,599
    7. Bangladesh 21.09.92 1 596,000
    8. Belgium     04.07.86 6 7,935
    9. Bolivia     27.10.90 1 5,240
    10. Brazil     24.09.93 5 4,536,623
    11. Bulgaria     24.01.76 5 2,501
    12. Burkina Faso 27.10.90 3 299,200
    13. Canada     15.05.81 33 13,030,568
    14. Chad     13.10.90 1 195,000
    15. Chile     27.11.81 1 4,877
    16. China     31.07.92 6 586,870
    17. Comoros 09.06.95 1 30
    18. Costa Rica 27.04.92 5 70,368
    19. Côte d'Ivoire 27.06.96 1 19,400
    20. Croatia     25.06.91 4 80,4551
    21. Czech Republic 01.01.93 9 37,5412
    22. Denmark 02.01.78 38 1,832,968
    23. Ecuador     07.01.91 2 90,137
    24. Egypt     09.09.88 2 105,700
    25. Estonia     29.07.94 1 48,640
    26. Finland     21.12.75 11 101,343
    27. France     01.12.86 17 778,085
    28. Gabon     30.04.87 3 1,080,000
    29. Germany     26.06.76 31 672,852
    30. Ghana     22.06.88 6 178,410
    31. Greece     21.12.75 11 107,400
    32. Guatemala 26.10.90 2 61,872
    33. Guinea     18.03.93 6 225,011
    34. Guinea-Bissau     14.05.90 1 39,098
    35. Honduras 23.10.93 2 91,375
    36. Hungary     11.08.79 13 114,862
    37. Iceland     02.04.78 2 57,500
    38. India 01.02.82 6 192,973
    39. Indonesia 08.08.92 2 242,700
    40. Iran, Islamic Republic of 21.12.75 18 1,357,550
    41. Ireland 15.03.85 21 13,035
    42. Italy     14.04.77 46 56,950
    43. Japan     17.10.80 10 83,530
    44. Jordan     10.05.77 1 7,372
    45. Kenya 05.10.90 2 48,800
    46. Latvia     25.11.95 3 43,300
    47. Liechtenstein 06.12.91 1 101
    48. Lithuania 20.12.93 5 50,451
    49. Malaysia 10.03.95 1 38,446
    50. Mali 25.09.87 3 162,000
    51. Malta 30.01.89 2 16
    52. Mauritania     22.02.83 2 1,188,600
    53. Mexico     04.11.86 4 700,546
    54. Morocco 20.10.80 4 10,580
    55. Namibia     23.12.95 4 629,600
    56. Nepal     17.04.88 1 17,500
    57. Netherlands     23.09.80 24 326,928
    58. New Zealand 13.12.76 5 38,8683
    59. Niger     30.08.87 1 220,000
    60. Norway     21.12.75 23 70,150
    61. Pakistan     23.11.76 8 61,706
    62. Panama     26.11.90 3 110,984
    63. Papua New Guinea 16.07.93 1 590,000
    64. Paraguay 07.10.95 4 775,000
    65. Peru     30.03.92 3 2,415,691
    66. Philippines 08.11.94 1 5,800
    67. Poland     22.03.78 8 90,455
    68. Portugal     24.03.81 10 30,563
    69. Romania 21.09.91 1 647,000
    70. Russian Federation 11.02.77 35 6,337,6014
    71. Senegal     11.11.77 4 99,720
    72. Slovak Republic 01.01.93 7 25,5192
    73. Slovenia 25.06.91 1 6501
    74. South Africa     21.12.75 12 228,344
    75. Spain     04.09.82 35 157,857
    76. Sri Lanka 15.10.90 1 6,210
    77. Suriname 22.11.85 1 12,000
    78. Sweden     21.12.75 30 382,750
    79. Switzerland 16.05.76 8 7,049
    80. The former Yugoslav Republic    
    of Macedonia
    08.09.91     1 40,0001
    81. Togo     04.11.95 2 194,400
    82. Trinidad & Tobago 21.04.93 1 6,234
    83. Tunisia     24.03.81 1 12,600
    84. Turkey     13.11.94 5 59,350
    85. Uganda     04.07.88 1 15,000
    86. United Kingdom     05.05.76 103     400,018
    87. United States of America 18.04.87 15 1,163,690
    88. Uruguay     22.09.84 1 435,0005
    89. Venezuela 23.11.88 1 9,968
    90. Viet Nam 20.01.89 1 12,000
    91. Yugoslavia 28.07.77 4 39,861
    92. Zaire 18.05.96 2 866,000
    93. Zambia 28.12.91 2 333,000
    former USSR 9 1,770,5514
    800 53,735,3616
    1. = Croatia, Slovenia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have each deposited
      with UNESCO a Declaration of Succession to Yugoslavia. UNESCO has advised the Bureau
      that the Convention entered into force for Croatia and Slovenia on 25 June 1991, and on
      8 September 1991 for The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

    2. = The Czech Republic and Slovak Republic have each deposited with UNESCO a Declaration
      of Succession to the former Czech & Slovak Federal Republic which became a Contracting
      Party on 2 July 1990. UNESCO has advised the Bureau that the Convention entered into force
      for both these states on 1 January 1993.

    3. = The Bureau has been notified that the total area of wetlands designated by New Zealand
      is approximate.

    4. = The Russian Federation has informed UNESCO that it continues to exercise the rights
      and carry out the obligations of the former USSR under the Ramsar Convention. Of the sites
      designated in 1976 by the former USSR, 3 are now in the Russian Federation and 1 is in Estonia;
      the remaining 9 sites are in other independent States (Azerbaijan 1, Kazakhstan 2, Kyrgyzstan 1,
      Turkmenistan 1, Ukraine 4). Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have deposited with UNESCO a Declaration
      of Succession to the former USSR but have not yet designated any site for the List. None of
      the sites designated by the former USSR are in Tajikistan or Uzbekistan.

      While awaiting confirmation by certain members of the Commonwealth of Independent States
      (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan and Ukraine) of their
      status as Parties to the Convention, the Ramsar Bureau points out that these States, together
      with the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, have undertaken, in the Alma-Ata
      Declaration of 21 December 1991 to guarantee "in conformity with their legislative
      procedures, the fulfillment of international obligations, stemming from the agreements signed
      by the former USSR". The Bureau is also in contact with Georgia with regard to its status
      as Parties to the Ramsar Convention.

      The area of wetlands given for the Russian Federation does not reflect all 32 sites designated
      in 1994. The Russian Federation has indicated that maps and geographical data for these sites
      will be deposited with the Bureau as soon as the necessary information has been received from
      local authorities.

    5. = The area of the "Bañados dell Este" site is under review, within the framework of the Ramsar
      Monitoring Procedure.

    6. = Total figure is for 790 Ramsar Sites where area data are provided.
    UNESCO has informed the Bureau that the following documents have been received:

    Israel: Instrument of Signature Subject to Ratification
    Luxembourg: Instrument of Signature Subject to Ratification
    Tajikistan: Declaration of Succession to the former USSR (no sites yet designated)
    Uzbekistan: Declaration of Succession to the former USSR (no sites yet designated)

    These States will become Contracting Parties as soon as they have completed the necessary

    For further information, please contact:
    The Ramsar Convention Bureau
    Rue Mauverney 28
    CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland

    Tel: +41 22 999 0170
    Fax: +41 22 999 0169
    31/5/96 E-mail:
    Dwight\ Web: http://iucn orgithemesiramsarl

  4. Strengthen the network of crane working groups.

    The various crane working groups have been essential to crane conservation efforts around the world (see Crane Conservation Measures and Appendix 2). Through the working groups, crane conservationists are able to meet, share information, publish scientific studies and newsletters, organize research and conservation projects, and coordinate international programs. Strengthening the groups is a high global priority. The groups have varied needs. In China and in Russia and other portions of the former Soviet Union, rebuilding effective working groups is the highest priority. The groups in Africa require support for regular meetings and for publication of newsletters. Europe’s working group hopes to have more regular interaction with crane researchers from North Africa, the Middle East, and Eurasia. The priority measures described in this action plan have been identified with the assistance and review of the working groups, and in many cases these actions will be carried out through the groups. Supporting the operations of the groups is thus key to the implementation of the action plan as a whole.

  5. Support future international and regional crane workshops.

    Since the mid-1970s, regional and international workshops and conferences have played an indispensable role in bringing together crane conservation biologists from different regions, promoting the exchange of information, and developing conservation strategies (see Table 1.4). Proceedings of most of the workshops have been published, and serve as important sources of information for scientists, students, agency officials, non-governmental organizations, and others interested in the conservation of cranes and the ecosystems where they are found (a list of the proceedings is provided in the Literature section). Crane workshops continue to be the principal vehicle through which new information on cranes and their habitats is presented and shared, and new conservation needs are identified. Institutional and financial support is needed to maintain this important function, and especially to provide more opportunities for conservation biologists from developing countries to participate.

  6. Develop a program to monitor crane populations and habitats, synthesize monitoring data, compile reports, and disseminate information.

    Cranes are among the most closely monitored groups of organisms on earth. This is due in large part to the network of ornithologists, avian and wetland ecologists, and crane conservationists that has developed in recent decades in response to the threats that cranes face. There is as yet, however, no systematic means of gathering, organizing, and disseminating data from various monitoring efforts. To provide a more accurate and timely overview of the status of the world’s cranes and the ecosystems in which they occur, steps should be taken to develop a program for reporting and compiling monitoring data. Such information can be efficiently received and delivered by taking advantage of computer networks and other electronic communications technology. Reports should be published on an annual or biennial basis, allowing researchers to share and update information, and to identify significant gaps in local and regional monitoring efforts. Such a program may also serve as a useful model for other taxonomically based monitoring programs.

  7. Coordinate international migration studies for all the migratory species.

    For the migratory crane species, an understanding of migration routes, timing, and behavior is fundamental to conservation planning. This is a need that in most cases transcends national and regional boundaries, and thus requires international coordination and support. While the major migration routes of some species and populations are known, most have not yet been clearly defined, and several critical routes are still poorly known (for example, those of the Western and Central populations of the Siberian Crane). Further data is needed on many aspects of migration, including the number of cranes using different routes, the factors affecting migration timing and duration, and important staging and resting areas. In recent years banding, radio-tracking, and satellite telemetry studies have begun to provide critical information on crane migration. These studies should receive continued support, and should be expanded to help fill in gaps in our knowledge. In addition, migration studies offer many opportunities for innovative international education projects. Researchers should take advantage of these opportunities in the design and implementation of their studies.

  8. Provide greater access to, and training in the use of, geographic information system (GIS) technology.

    Geographic information system (GIS) technology represents an important new tool for crane and wetland scientists and conservationists (e.g. Kondoh 1994 et al., Kanai et al. 1994). Through computer-based storage, manipulation, and processing of spatial data, GIS offers opportunities for sophisticated analysis of the factors affecting crane populations and habitats. Potential applications of GIS include: habitat identification and classification using remotely-sensed data; watershed-level analysis and planning; development of management plans for protected areas; production of maps for research and education programs; monitoring of habitat restoration projects; modeling of environmental impacts on crane habitat; and synthesis of ecological and socioeconomic data in the development of integrated conservation programs. Providing access to GIS technology will be key to helping crane conservationists address larger-scale and longer-term threats in the future.

  9. Provide financial support to meet critical equipment needs.

    In many cases, the most critical needs facing crane conservationists are the most basic. Inadequate (or non-existent) field and office equipment can be important obstacles to effective conservation projects. General needs include vehicles, tools, binoculars, scientific instruments, communication devices, and computers. More specialized needs include leg bands, radio transmitters, and satellite transmitters (PTTs) for studies of migration and behavior; slide projectors and video equipment for use in education projects; incubators, pens, feeds, and veterinary supplies for use in captive propagation and release programs; and aerial photos and satellite data for habitat analysis and inventory. The success of many of the measures recommended in this action plan requires that such basic needs be met. Effective administration and enforcement of protected areas, for example, requires that personnel be able to patrol their area and communicate with one another and with local officials.

  10. Provide technical and financial support for the translation and dissemination of scientific information on cranes and crane conservation.

    Much of the information on cranes and crane conservation is of limited use because it is unavailable to scientists and conservationists in their native language, or because it is unavailable altogether. Crane conservationists worldwide share many of the same challenges in terms of research, habitat protection and management, sustainable development strategies, education, and husbandry and reintroduction techniques. In many cases, researchers working in one portion of a species’ range are unaware of, or unable to incorporate findings from, work being done in other portions. Support is thus needed for translation of publications and for enhancing their availability. The advent of electronic computer networks offers many new opportunities to share research results quickly and efficiently. The Ron Sauey Memorial Library for Bird Conservation at ICF (see Topic 3) has begun to explore such opportunities for making its collections accessible to off-site researchers through computer networks. In the future, it should be possible for individuals to report as well as receive information through one or more main locations.

  11. Provide training opportunities for agency and non-governmental organization personnel.

    Professional training in conservation concepts and techniques has been essential to long-term success in protecting the world’s cranes. Such training has been offered through conservation agency training programs, through universities, and through special programs developed by ICF and other non-governmental organizations. In most cases training takes place in-country. In many cases, however, international exchange and training programs have proven to be essential in providing experience, disseminating knowledge, and promoting cooperation and camaraderie among conservationists from various countries. This is especially important for scientists, officials, and educators from developing countries, where opportunities for training and working with foreign colleagues are more limited. Support is required at the national, regional, and international levels to provide continuing opportunities for professional training and development.

  12. Implement existing recommendations for the sound management and propagation of cranes in captivity and for the coordination of in situ and ex situ conservation strategies.

    Since the early 1980s, the objective in managing captive cranes for conservation has moved away from the propagation of individual pairs and towards the maintenance of viable populations. In order to assure that the populations remain viable, aviculturalists are managing the captive flocks in such a way that high levels (at least 90%) of genetic diversity can be retained over the long run (at least 100 years). The coordination of strategies for genetic management and production of the rarest taxa (Wattled, Siberian, Mississippi Sandhill, White-naped, Whooping, and Red-Crowned Cranes) for release and reintroduction projects also requires careful planning and cooperation among the institutions involved in captive propagation.

    To ensure that the populations of captive cranes are managed in a sound fashion, and that these efforts dovetail with reintroduction and habitat protection programs, the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group has sponsored a series of intensive management workshops, the recommendations of which are recorded in the Crane Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) and the Global Crane Action Recommendations (GCAR) (Mirande et al. in press a; see also Captive Propagation and Reintroduction). Specific recommendations are presented on a species-by-species basis under Priority Conservation Measures in the species accounts in Section 2. Several recommendations are presented on a regional basis in the remainder of this section. These recommendations should be fully implemented as part of a comprehensive crane conservation effort, and should be reviewed and updated regularly.

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