It is race week! In two days I depart the madness of Joburg for the altogether more peaceful Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal to run the Three Cranes Challenge.
But this time it’s not just for the fun stories I’ll uncover for our readers and the personal challenge of the event, we’re all running for a purpose. Here’s how the Wildlands Conservation Trust puts it.
What we’re running for: New Habitat for Critically Endangered Species in the Karkloof
Wildlands Conservation Trust has purchased Dartmoor Farm (800ha) in the Karkloof District to help grow and consolidate the Greater Karkloof Conservation Area (3100ha including Dartmoor). The farm is being proclaimed as a protected area, and was donated to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife early in 2011.
The Karkloof is rich in threatened and endemic biodiversity, which is protected in small, isolated conservation areas spread throughout the district. Dartmoor forms an important corridor linking the various fragmented pieces of land into a consolidated conservation area. This farm was chosen because of its biodiversity; the irreplaceable habitat includes mist belt grasslands that support such critically endangered species as Oribi and Wattled Crane. By virtue of its crucial location, Dartmoor also links existing Protected Areas in the Karkloof conservation area to create a single, contiguous conservation area with a mix of government and private sector landowners.
This area is one of the two most important Wattled Crane breeding areas in the country. Its value is critical from this perspective. The fact that it will be fenced and patrolled will make Wattled Crane chicks less vulnerable to attacks by feral dogs. The area also has the potential to become one of the more important Oribi conservation areas in the province. It could easily support two or three dozen Oribi, and the fences and patrols will reduce the risk of poaching by dog hunters. The purchase and donation of Dartmoor by Wildlands to Ezemvelo is contributing directly to achieving our conservation objectives in the province.
Cranes and their habitats – Valuable yet vulnerable:
Cranes are large, beautiful, long-lived birds which have inspired awe among people since the earliest times. They are the most elegant of all birds and their trumpeting calls and carefree, bounding courtship dances are evocative of our wildest places. The lifelong devotion shown by mated pairs has resulted in them traditionally being revered as symbols of peace, happiness and longevity.
Due to their large size, distinctive behaviour, extensive territories and cultural significance, cranes have served as flagship species in many conservation efforts throughout the world. They provide the incentive to conserve wetlands and grasslands upon which many other less charismatic, but equally important species, also depend.
Sadly, cranes are rapidly retreating in the face of man’s relentless exploitation of our planet and over the past two centuries crane populations have plummeted. Without our concern and careful management, many species are doomed to slip into extinction. Already seven of the world’s 15 species of cranes are Critically Endangered.
This decline is evident in all three of South Africa’s crane species:
The Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus). South Africa’s national bird, the population of which has declined by almost 80% in the eastern parts of the country during the past half century.
The Grey-Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) The numbers have decreased dramatically in this species.
The Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus) The decline of this crane has been catastrophic and it is now Critically Endangered in South Africa