Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
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.
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.
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
|40.||Iran, Islamic Republic of||21.12.75||18||1,357,550|
|63.||Papua New Guinea||16.07.93||1||590,000|
|80.||The former Yugoslav Republic
|82.||Trinidad & Tobago||21.04.93||1||6,234|
|87.||United States of America||18.04.87||15||1,163,690|
|UNESCO has informed the
Bureau that the following documents have been received:
Israel: Instrument of Signature Subject to Ratification
These States will become Contracting Parties as soon as they have
completed the necessary
|For further information,
The Ramsar Convention Bureau
Rue Mauverney 28
CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 999 0170
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.