By participating in the Three Cranes Challenge, you are helping to conserve KwaZulu-Natal’s endangered Crane species.
Cranes are large, beautiful, long-lived birds that 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 the 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 crane populations have plummeted over the past two centuries. Without our concern and careful management, many species are doomed to slip into extinction. Already seven of the world’s 15 species of crane are Critically Endangered.
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.
The Karkloof Conservancy was officially formed on the 19 March 1998. The Conservancy is made up of local landowners interested in the protection of biodiversity in the Karkloof and has been actively involved in a number of community projects in the area for the past 13 years. The Karkloof Conservancy covers an area of 40 000 hectares in the Karkloof, KwaZulu-Natal. The area includes wetlands, mistbelt grasslands and huge tracts of mistbelt forest, which are all protected biomes.
The farmers of the Conservancy participate in various environmentally friendly farming practices, ensuring that they maintain their alien invasive plants, their soil, the fauna, flora, and the environment as a whole. Some of the farmers are registered crane custodians and all 3 species of crane occur in the area.
Some of the projects that the Karkloof Conservancy participates in include annual game counts to monitor the game in the area such as the endangered Oribi.
The Conservancy has also worked closely with local conservation organisations such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust, KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation, SANBI, Enviro Watch, Wildlands Conservation Trust and the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa.
For the past 13 years, the Karkloof Conservancy has been working with 4 local farm schools in environmental education. Each year, a theme is chosen and a conservation officer or specialist is invited to talk at the schools. Themes covered includethe life cycle of Butterflies, Cranes, Oribi, Snakes, Raptors, Wetlands, Grasslands, the Drakensberg Mountains, and Antelope of Southern Africa.
After the informative presentations and discussions, every school is supplied with a blank poster and art materials. They use this to create brilliant artworks depicting what they have learnt. The paintings are then displayed at the Conservancy’s AGM for all to appreciate. Conservancy members vote for their favourite artwork and the winners then qualify for an educational outing and picnic, paid for by the Conservancy.
The Karkloof Conservancy started raising funds to adopt a local Wattled Crane chick called Mbeche in August 2011. The money raised for these sorts of adoptions go towards field work done by Tanya Smith of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, who rescues abandoned eggs as part of the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme. There are currently less than 260 Wattled Cranes left in South Africa, and of those, 10% of the breeding sites occur in the Karkloof.
The Karkloof Conservation Centre (opened in October 2007) is a meaningful environmental awareness, education and eco-tourism hub and is one of the Conservancy’s proudest achievements. The Centre is ample proof that respect for the environment and conservation ethic are deep rooted in the Karkloof Valley.
In true community spirit, Charlie McGillvray and his family have kindly opened up part of their farm, Gartmore, to nature lovers by offering to house the office headquarters and a bird hide on their property. The second bird hide nearby is located on Stuart Mackenzie’s farm, Loskop. The Tourism and Conservation Office is based at the entrance of Gartmore Farm, 15km along the Karkloof road, just outside of Howick.
The public can now enjoy the true splendour and tranquillity of the Karkloof wetlands from a comfortable seat in our two world-class bird hides, where one really feels part of the natural surroundings. All three crane species visit our wetlands near the bird hides on a regular basis and there are also a variety of waterbirds and raptors to keep you entertained.
The Conservation Centre is open every day of the week from 08:00 to 16:00. There is an entrance fee of R20 per adult, R10 per child, and children under the age of 5 are free. There is an “honesty box” should the office be closed.
Visit the website for more information: www.karkloofconservation.org.za