Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan
Introduction to Species Accounts
In this section, the conservation status and needs of the world’s cranes are examined
on a species-by-species basis. These accounts are not intended to provide comprehensive
coverage of existing biological knowledge for each species, but rather to summarize
the most recent information relevant to their conservation. Readers interested
in additional basic information on crane biology and ecology are encouraged to
consult Walkinshaw’s Cranes of the World (1973), Johnsgard’s Cranes
of the World (1983), the proceedings of crane conferences and workshops, and
the sources listed within the Literature section at the end of this document.
Additional resources are also available through the Ron Sauey Memorial Library
for Bird Conservation at the International Crane Foundation (see Topic
In preparing the species accounts, the authors and contributors have followed
a standard but flexible format. For each species, information is provided under
the following headings.
Each account includes a brief summary of the account as a whole, with information
on: subspecies and populations, population numbers, conservation status, historic
and present distribution; distribution by country; habitat and ecology; principal
threats; current conservation measures; and priority conservation measures.
Recognized subspecies, populations, and (in some cases) wintering subpopulations
are identified here. Subspecies have been described for four species (Black Crowned,
Grey Crowned, Sandhill, and Sarus Cranes). Distinguishing characteristics of the
subspecies are briefly noted. Where the intraspecific taxonomic structure has
not been fully resolved, this too is noted. Populations are distinguished for
eight species (Blue, Demoiselle, Wattled, Siberian, Sandhill, Brolga, Eurasian,
and Whooping Cranes). Wintering subpopulations are distinguished for four of the
migratory species (White-naped, Hooded, Black-necked, and Red-Crowned Cranes).
Population Numbers and Trends
Estimates of population numbers and general assessments of population trends are
provided for each species. An effort has been made to provide this information
at the lowest taxonomic level (species, subspecies, population, or subpopulation).
In most cases, trends are reported on the basis of changes in the population numbers
over the last 10-25 years. Although population estimates for cranes are more readily
available and more reliable than for most other kinds of organisms, sizable margins
of error still exist for many populations (especially among the most abundant
species). These cases are noted. Sources of population data are also noted. Where
several sources have been used to derive or corroborate a total, all are noted.
This section presents the proposed conservation status of the cranes at the species,
subspecies, and in some cases population level under the new categories and criteria
outlined in IUCN Red List Categories (1994). Appendix
3 provides a full explanation of the new IUCN Red List Categories and the
criteria on which they are based. The proposed crane categorisations are to be
finalized after further review by members of the IUCN/SSC/BirdLife Crane Specialist
Group and other crane experts. This section also lists the species’ status under
the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), as well as
additional international conventions where relevant.
Historic and Present Distribution
Each species account includes information on the historic and present distribution
of the species. Although reliable information on past distribution is usually
scarce, an effort has been made to assess for each species recorded changes in
the species range. For most of the cranes, historic records date back at most
to the mid- to late-1800s. This is the general time frame covered in these discussions.
Distribution by Country
Because many conservation actions are organized and implemented at the national
level, the distribution and status (breeding, migratory, wintering, resident,
vagrant/occasional, extirpated) of each species is recorded here on a country-by-country
basis. These listings also allow for cross-referencing with the regional-scale
priorities described in Section 3.
Habitat and Ecology
Brief discussions of the species’ habitat and ecology are provided in this section.
As noted above, these are not intended to be comprehensive reviews of existing
knowledge on each species, but summaries of information relevant to their conservation
status and needs.
Leading threats to the species as a whole and to particular populations are described.
Sympatric species (primarily those in East Asia) are often threatened by similar
factors, and an effort has been made to minimize redundancy among these discussions.
Current Conservation Measures and Priority Conservation Measures
Each account includes a review of recent and continuing conservation measures
undertaken for each species and a series of specific priority measures that are
recommended for the future. Priority measures are listed in order of importance
and have been formulated and ranked based on information provided by the IUCN/SSC/BirdLife
Crane Specialist Group and other reviewers with expertise in particular species
or regions. These priorities have been developed based on a 10- to 15-year timeframe,
with critical shorter-term actions receiving higher priority. Current measures
are discussed, and priority measures listed, under several general categories,
Legal and Cultural Protection
Available information on the legal status of cranes is provided here. Religious
traditions and cultural mores have played an important role in the conservation
of many crane species, and these too are noted. Priority measures pertain to legal
actions needed to protect cranes as well as their habitats.
International Agreements and Cooperation
International cooperation is a critical factor in the conservation of all the
cranes (especially the migratory species) and their habitats. Existing formal
agreements and other cooperative actions are described here, along with the most
significant needs for the future.
In many cases, protected areas have been established specifically to safeguard
cranes and key crane habitats. In other cases, cranes may not depend on protected
areas, but use those that have been established for broader purposes. An effort
has been made to describe existing protected areas of both types. Priority measures
deal with the establishment of new reserves in areas critical to cranes, as well
as the expansion and improved management of existing reserves.
Habitat Protection and Management
The fate of most crane species will be determined by the availability and quality
of habitat outside of strict reserves. Thus, the maintenance, restoration, and
management of habitat often depends on integrating crane conservation efforts
with other human activities on the landscape. The status of non-reserved habitat
protection and management efforts is reviewed here. Priority measures pertain
primarily to habitat that is unlikely to be included within reserves in the future.
Successful conservation depends upon an understanding of the size of and trends
in crane populations. For each species, the extent and duration of surveying and
monitoring efforts are summarized, along with the most critical needs for the
future. Habitat surveys are generally discussed under the sections “Habitat Protection
and Management” (above) or “Research” (below), but are described under this heading
if they have been undertaken in conjunction with population surveys.
As a family, the cranes have benefitted from the sustained interest of ornithologists
and conservation biologists around the world. Especially since the mid-1970s,
research on cranes has expanded significantly. The development and status of research
efforts, including important avenues of research and the geographic areas in which
they have been conducted, are summarized here. Emphasis is placed on field research
with conservation applications. Extensive research has also been undertaken on
cranes in captivity. Where such research is particularly relevant for conservation
actions, it is noted. Readers interested in research on cranes in captivity are
urged to contact the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) and
the Crane Conservation Department of ICF. Research priorities have been formulated
in response to gaps in knowledge that are critical to future conservation projects
and programs. These priority topics are intended to strengthen the foundation
upon which other recommended actions are built.
Population and Habitat Viability Analyses (PHVA) and Recovery and Management
PHVAs and PVAs (population (and habitat) viability analyses) have been undertaken
for several crane taxa. Findings from these analyses are summarized. Similarly,
recovery and management plans have already been developed and implemented for
several taxa. The provisions and goals of these plans are also summarized. PHVAs
are recommended for several crane taxa.
Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Non-governmental organizations have played a significant role in the conservation
of cranes and crane habitat throughout the world. These activities are highlighted
in several species accounts. In most cases, support for NGOs is not included specifically
under the lists of priority measures. However, many (if not most) of the priority
actions will take place under the auspices, or with the close involvement, of
NGOs. Continued support for their efforts should be considered a general priority.
Education and Training
Cranes have unusual value as the focus of education projects, and offer special
opportunities for more broadly conceived conservation education programs. Educational
programs involving cranes have been developed in many parts of the world for children,
communities, and the general public, as well as for more specific audiences (such
as hunters and farmers). Current programs are described, and priority needs identified.
In addition, directed professional training programs and needs are discussed under
Captive Propagation and Reintroduction
The threatened status of cranes at the species and subspecies level has stimulated
concerted captive propagation, release, and reintroduction programs. These have
been, and are likely to remain, an integral part of comprehensive conservation
planning, especially for the Whooping Crane, Siberian Crane, and several crane
Programs for the management of captive crane populations for conservation
purposes, and for dovetailing in situ and ex situ conservation
actions, are well developed. The Crane Conservation Assessment and Management
Plan (CAMP) summarizes the status and needs of these programs (see Captive
Propagation and Reintroduction and Mirande et al. in press a). The CAMP
has been developed under the auspices of the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding
Specialist Group; the Crane Specialist Group; ICF; the Regional Captive Propagation
Programs (which includes the major zoological associations in North America,
Europe, and China); and the Calgary Zoological Society. Information and recommendations
from the CAMP and from the Global Captive Action Recommendations (GCAR)
for cranes are presented (and occasionally updated and/or supplemented) under
For all species, the CAMP recommends that management of captive crane populations
be carried out at one of four levels: “Intensive-1,” “Intensive-2,” “No,” or
Species for which captive programs are not currently recommended are assigned
a No rating. Species for which captive programs are not now recommended
but may be considered pending further data are assigned a Pending rating.
Assigned levels in the CAMP are reported here under this heading. Captive management
programs were also ranked according to their priority (A, B, or C priority),
and these rankings are also reported.
- Intensive-1 management is defined as follows:
- The captive population should be developed and managed in a manner sufficient
to preserve 90% of the genetic diversity of a population for 100 years (90%/100).
The program should be developed within 3 years. This is an emergency program
based on the present availability of genetically diverse founders.
- Intensive-2 management is defined as follows:
- Initiate a captive program within three or more years. Captive population
should be developed and managed in such a manner that a nucleus of 50-100
individuals is organized, with the aim of representing as much of the wild
gene pool as possible. The program may require periodic importation of individuals
from the wild population to maintain the high level of genetic diversity in
a limited captive population. This type of program should be viewed as protection
against potential extirpation of wild populations.
Many of the species accounts include additional categories of current and
priority conservation measures. These reflect special actions or needs, often
particular to the species or a given population. In some cases (efforts to deal,
for example, with poisoning or crop depredation), they reflect special problems
that require well coordinated responses. In a number of cases, several crane
species share priorities and benefit from the same conservation measures. This
is most often the case with the cranes of East Asia. As in the discussions of
principal threats, an effort has been made to minimize redundancy within the
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Habitat Conservation Programs
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