Home Outdoor education The story of Rwanda’s crested cranes – KT PRESS

The story of Rwanda’s crested cranes – KT PRESS

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Kabuga wetland where efforts have already begun to bring some habitats – gray crowned cranes to Umusambi village – Photo Plaisir Muzogeye

Environmental conservation in Rwanda is one of the stories that have been highlighted regionally and globally as a combination of individual and government efforts.

No wonder, this citizen-government-partner approach applied to the conservation of gray crowned cranes (commonly known as crested cranes), a majestic bird that is seen in Rwanda as “a symbol of wealth and longevity.”

Just over a decade ago, these birds were removed from their natural habitat and made into iconic pets in the gardens of hotels and private homes. The birds were nearly wiped out by poachers.

The destruction of their habitat for agriculture added to the pressure and in 2012 there were only 300 left in the wild and they were rapidly heading towards extinction.

rescue mission

The Rwanda crested crane species has experienced a remarkable recovery in Rwanda thanks to local veterinarian and conservationist Olivier Nsengimana.

Living in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, Nsengimana had found it strange to hear cranes screeching from people‘s gardens, when the wild habitats were almost devoid of birds.

“I figured somebody had to do something about it,” he says. “Someone has to make a change.”

In 2014, the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA) founded by Nsengimana and the government launched an amnesty program encouraging owners to return their “pets” without fear of prosecution.

At Umusambi village, a crested crane sanctuary in Kigali run by RWCA, many pet crested cranes whose feathers were clipped or wings broken by their alleged owners to prevent them from escaping are being rehabilitated to be returned to their natural habitats.

Rehabilitated crested cranes that are healthy enough to be returned to the wild are taken to a specially designed quarantine facility.

During the quarantine period, the cranes undergo a complete physical examination and samples are taken and analyzed for different diseases.

At the facility, experts intervene and treat any cranes found to have a disease that could be harmful to their health when reintroduced, but could also pose a threat to other birds or animals in the state. wild.

Once the cranes are disease-free and the quarantine period is over, they are moved to the Akagera National Park rehabilitation site.

The program has seen 242 gray crowned cranes successfully rescued from captivity, Nsengimana says.

Of these, 166 healthy cranes have since been released into a rehabilitation site in Akagera National Park, near the Rwanda-Tanzania border, where they have learned to feed again in the wild.

The village of Umusambi has become part of the solution to ensure that these crested cranes have a permanent natural home and that Rwanda can achieve its goal of having no cranes in captivity.

51 additional cranes rescued from captivity who are either disabled or not healthy enough to return to the wild, are now enjoying a large wetland area and a naturally restored crane sanctuary in Umusambi village.

Promotion of ecotourism

The village also provides a unique ecotourism attraction in Kigali City, connecting people and nature, which continues to raise awareness of our work to protect Gray Crowned Cranes and save them from illegal trade.

The experiences of visitors to Umusambi village show that the crested crane remains a very exciting bird to see in its natural habitat instead of being held captive by one or two people.

“The village of Umusambi is a great experience. We loved walking along all the trails, seeing and learning about so many different birds in their natural habitats. It’s fantastic to have this available so close to the center of Kigali, write Caroline and Laurence Dews, visitors from the UK.

“Umusambi Village is outdoor education at its best. As a family, we were grateful to spend a day in the beautifully restored marshland, walking, bird watching and learning about the gray crowned cranes in Our children learned about the importance of the marsh ecosystem and planted a native tree that we look forward to visiting again in the years to come,” says Aila Malik from the United States.

More cranes preserved

There are up to 15 species of gray crowned cranes in the world.

Two subspecies are found primarily in Africa, with a wide distribution of the East African crested crane – found in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique , while the southern African species is mainly found in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In 2017, the RWCA had 487 crested cranes in Rwanda, in 2018 it had increased to 459 cranes, in 2019 it reached 748, and in 2020 it had 881 cranes.

“We are now starting to collaborate with our neighboring countries to better monitor cranes crossing borders,” Nsengimana said.

Conservation experts say Grey-crowned cranes are still under threat in other parts of Africa and there is no “cut and paste” solution for all countries, but lessons can be learned from the success of Rwanda.