Crested Cranes, a national bird at the edge of extinction

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Lwengo district is known for habiting the highest population of crested cranes, but today, the bird’s population is seen decreasing due to rampant encroachment on their habitats.

Increasing usage of swamps for cultivation reduces the crane’s homes and crossing naked wires which have struck some of the birds dead.

Conservationists are concerned by the continued use of naked electricity transmission lines, arguing that they are yet another hindrance to the protection of the Crested Cranes.

Crested Cranes are national birds, chosen during colonial rule and till today are some of the symbols on Uganda’s national emblem.

Godfrey Mutemba, the Lwengo district Senior Natural Resources Officer says that in addition to other human habits that include poisoning and destruction of the Crested Cranes’ natural breeding grounds the wetlands, some of the Crested Cranes are also dying due to electrocution after they unknowingly collide with uninsulated power transmission lines that run through their habitats and roost sites.

According to investigations, it’s established that some of the Crested Cranes are perching on live power transmission lines which exposes them to the risk of death by electrocution, Mr.Mutebi said.

In Lwengo district, there are two notable larger gazetted wetlands of Kiyanja-Kaku and Kyoja conserved as natural breeding grounds for Crested Cranes in the whole of the country.

Mr. Mutebi added that in a period of one year, they have recorded 21 Crested Cranes that have died of causes related to electrocution that occur within the known habitat areas of Lwengo district.

He expounded as there other birds that were found dead including two Marabou Storks (known as Kalooli), two grey-headed Herons (Ssekanolya), one Red-eyed dove (ejjuba), and a pied crow (Nnamungoona) that are also significant to wildlife and tourism.

“Some of the birds are found below the power lines with wing injuries or they were killed instantly from the shock of electrocution. And because the cranes migrate at night or fly in groups, they become vulnerable to colliding with power lines that may not be visible in low light conditions,” he explains.

However, there is an engagement with the electricity transmission and distribution companies to raise the concerns and appeal to them to insulate the power lines as a safety measure.

There is a need for the power transmission lines to be branded with multicolored flyers to work as reflectors making the wires more visible, this will eventually prevent the cranes from colliding with them while flying.

“We are soon going to meet these electricity supply companies so that they can also support our campaign to conserve these crested cranes that are one of the endangered wildlife species,” Mr. Mutebi adds.

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Ibrahim Kittata, the Lwengo district Chairperson, observed a need for all stakeholders to jointly put intervention to eliminate all the threats to the survival of crested cranes.

According to Kitatta, acting under the guidance of the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquates, and the established partnership with the International Crane Foundation, the district has for the last two years been engaged in a vigorous campaign of wetland restoration and conservation as a strategic intervention to protect the crested cranes.

The chairman adds that it is high time all concerned stakeholders also joined the campaign with relevant interventions to save the country’s precious emblem from extinction.

The Wildlife Conservation reports at the Ministry of Tourism indicate that in the last 26 years, Uganda has lost 80 percent of its total Crested Crane population of 35,000 birds as per the census conducted in 1995.

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