Namibia Crane Working Group: Blue Crane Project

The Blue Crane Project

In 2006 we launched an exciting research and conservation project on Namibia's Blue Cranes, in view of the Critically Endangered status of the species in this country and a growing concern for the survival of its isolated population - the only one outside South Africa, and whose numbers appear to be declining. Our partners are the MET, the Polytechnic of Namibia and NNF, with further support from The Overberg Explorer and Wilderness Safaris Namibia.

Blue Cranes are the world's most range-restricted crane species and occur mainly in South Africa (in highveld grasslands, the eastern grassy Karoo regions and the grain belt of the Western Cape). The curious and highly isolated breeding population of these cranes within Etosha National Park and on the grasslands to the north poses a genetic and conservation puzzle. According to preliminary sampling, they may be genetically different from South Africa's cranes, raising the question: how can they remain in Namibia with apparently very little intermixing with South Africa's birds? The second question is, what is special about these grasslands and how do cranes survive in a predator-rich area such as Etosha? We are investigating the conservation and ecological factors that have shaped this population, and will compare these findings with what is known about other Blue Crane populations, as a basis for a species management plan in Namibia.

In particular, we are looking at these questions:

How can Blue Cranes survive in an arid and predator-rich environment such as Etosha?
  • What is the current size and age composition of the Namibian Blue Crane population?
  • Which habitats do the Blue Cranes in Etosha National Park use on a seasonal basis, and are there critical areas outside the Etosha?
  • Do the Etosha birds possess specific behavioural adaptations to survive in a habitat that is (a) dry and hot; and (b) rich in predators?
  • Is the Namibian population genetically separate from the main population in SA?
  • What are the limiting factors/threats to the Namibian population, as a basis for a species management plan?
  • How does the ecology of the Namibian Blue Cranes differ from other populations in SA?
Progress to date
  • April 2006 - Two combined aerial/ground surveys. See newsletter no. 23 for a full report [pdf 438 kb]
  • April 2007 - Etosha crane census and capture of a bird to fit a radio transmitter. See newsletter no. 28 for a full report [pdf 567 kb]
  • May 2007 - Tracking the radio-tagged Etosha Blue Crane. See newsletter no. 29 for a full report [pdf 657 kb]
  • May 2008 - Capture of an adult Blue Crane to fit a satellite tracking device. See newsletter no. 36 for a full report [pdf 1.1 mb]
  • November 2010 - Assessment and Planning Workshop. View report [pdf 539 kb]
  • December 2010 - Progress report to WWT. View report [pdf 674 kb]

The products page links to a variety of reports, media releases and articles on Namibia's Blue Cranes, as well as the newsletters which provide regular updates.

Thank you!

We would like to thank our many friends - both in Namibia's crane areas and elsewhere - for the ongoing interest, encouragement and support over the years; and in particular the Namibia Nature Foundation for three years of funding through the Local Environment Fund, supported by the Swedish Embassy (SIDA).

Web design by Alice Jarvis. This page last updated March 8, 2011