Minimum population size and distribution of Grey Crowned Cranes Balearica regulorum in Rwanda: an aerial and ground survey
The iconic Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum is facing an increase in threats to its wetland habitat and poaching for the captive trade market. This has resulted in an enduring long-term decline in population numbers, which led to the species being listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List. In Rwanda, Grey Crowned Cranes are threatened by human factors often driven by conditions of poverty, livelihood disadvantage and lack of conservation awareness. Previous population estimates suggested there were fewer than 500 Grey Crowned Cranes left in Rwanda. The Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association and its partners have been working to
eliminate the illegal trade and boost the population numbers in Rwanda. In August 2017, the first national census of Grey Crowned Cranes in Rwanda was carried out to serve as a baseline and to increase the accuracy of previous estimations. The survey was conducted over three days using both aerial and ground survey techniques. The results show that at least 487 Grey Crowned Cranes occur in Rwanda and include details on distribution and habitat type. Challenges for Grey Crowned Crane conservation at different sites are discussed, such as wetland transformation for agriculture, and illegal activities in protected marshlands. To ensure the long-term viability of this species, there is a need for upscaling of conservation efforts in key crane areas, continued monitoring of the crane population including trans-boundary collaboration, and strategies to promote the sustainable use of wetlands.
Keywords: census, conservation, Grey Crowned Cranes, population trends, Rwanda