EVERY year, 10 percent of blue cranes, South Africa’s national bird, are electrocuted on power lines.
About half the world’s population of blue cranes, which is a threatened species, is found in the Western Cape, where the birds are also killed by poisoning and habitat destruction.
Now the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is asking the public to help them lessen at least one of the threats faced by the big birds – hitting power lines.
They know that putting markers on the lines can help reduce mortalities as the lines are made more visible to the birds. However, knowing which lines are the best to mark is more tricky as they need to know more about the birds’ movements.
EWT is to fit radio tracking devices on to 15 of the birds to get some understanding of their movements, and a doctoral student is working with the organisation to develop a blue crane conservation strategy.
But 15 birds are not going to give them a full picture – and this is where the public comes in. The organisation has teamed up with Fair Cape Dairies to create a crane-spotting public programme.
During this month, anyone who sees blue cranes is asked to take a photograph of the birds, with their GPS co-ordinates if they have them, and paste it on the company’s Facebook page.
Louis Loubser, marketing director of the company, said in a statement: “The more we know about our magnificent national bird, the more likely it will be gracing our farmlands for generations to come.”
Of the 15 species of crane, the blue crane has the most restricted distribution. Even those species with lower population numbers, such as the Siberian or whooping cranes, are found over a greater range in their migratory movements.
The birds have almost disappeared from the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and Swaziland, while their populations in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West have declined by 90 percent.
Photographs of crane spottings can be posted on https://www.facebook.com/faircape.