Once a flourishing species, Crane numbers have fallen 80% in Rwanda. A new initiative looks to rehabilitate the birds and return them to the wild
The Guardian, Tuesday 21 October 2014 11.34 BST
Only the other day I saw a man walking through the wealthier part of town with two grey crowned-cranes tucked under his arms wrapped in blankets, probably looking for a potential buyer. I remember, as a child, going to fetch water and hearing the sound of the grey crowned-cranes.
They foraged in the marshes at the bottom of the hill I lived on – beautiful, long-legged birds with their golden crests and their head-bobbing dance. I’d go to get water, and I could hear their booming calls. Sadly, they are no longer there. These days you’re more likely to see one strutting around a garden or the grounds of a hotel than you are in the wild. What few people realise is that they are endangered, and it is illegal to poach or sell the birds.
People cut the feathers so that they can’t fly away, and sometimes even break their wings. It’s ironic in a way, because in Rwanda people prize the birds as a symbol of wealth and longevity, and yet most of the birds die in captivity, due to stress, injuries and malnutrition. They die without ever breeding. The crane population has fallen by around 80% in the past 45 years and, with only a few hundred left in the wild, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has put the bird on the endangered list. It is for this reason that I decided to act.