Distribution and population estimates of four crane species in Ethiopia: A global crane hotspot facing increasing threats

  • Shimelis Aynalem Zelelew
  • Günter Nowald
  • George Archibald
  • Hadis Tadele
  • Abebayehu Aticho
  • Kerryn Morrison
  • Tariku Mekonnen Gutema
Keywords: Black-crowned Crane, Common Crane, Demoiselle Crane, threats, Wattled Crane, breeding sites, wetlands


Four species of crane occur in Ethiopia, making the country the most important in Africa for cranes. Black-crowned Balearica pavonina and Wattled Cranes Bugeranus carunculatus, both listed as Vulnerable, are resident species, while Common Grus grus and Demoiselle Cranes Anthropoides virgo, both listed as Least Concern, are migrants. We assessed the distribution and minimum population size of four crane species at the most important and main crane sites during 2007–2019. Some potentially important sites, particularly for Black-crowned Cranes, were not able to be surveyed. Breeding areas of resident cranes were also surveyed. Results showed that Black-crowned Cranes were mainly distributed in the Gambela and Lake Tana areas and the minimum population estimate was 3319 individuals. Wattled Cranes were distributed in Bale Mountains National Park, Lake Tana, Jimma wetlands, Bonga and central Rift Valley areas and the minimum population estimate was 366. Migratory Common Cranes were found in Lake Tana, central Ethiopia, south-central Rift Valley, and some places in southern Ethiopia with the highest populations recorded at Lake Tana and secondly at Debre-Zeit. The minimum population estimate for Common Cranes was 70 000. Migratory Demoiselle Cranes were restricted to the northwestern corner of Ethiopia and the minimum population estimate of 21 500 was based on previously published data. Wetlands are the main habitats for cranes and in Ethiopia these habitats are being degraded and are under increasing threat from overgrazing, water extraction for irrigation, siltation, and habitat loss from farming. Key wetland sites that should be protected or sustainably managed include those at Gambela, Lake Tana (Chimba and Yiganda, in particular), and the Boyo and Jimma areas. Cheleleka at Debre-Zeit, Sululta plain around Addis Ababa, and Shesher floodplain in Lake Tana are important roosting sites for Common Cranes.

Keywords: Black-crowned Crane, Common Crane, Demoiselle Crane, threats, Wattled Crane, breeding sites, wetlands


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2313-1799
print ISSN: 0250-4162