SAVING CRANES TO SAVE WETLANDS

Jimmy Muheebwa, Uganda Project Coordinator, and Janine Rennie, Southern Drakensberg Field Officer, EWT/ICF African Crane Conservation Programme

JimmyM@ewt.org.za and JanineR@ewt.org.za

Celebrated annually on 2 February, World Wetlands Day aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet. Wetlands are declining three times faster than forests the world over, so there is a need to sound the drums of warning against their unsustainable abuse.

The global theme for World Wetlands Day 2020 was Wetlands and Biodiversity, while in Uganda, a national theme of Life thrives in wetlands; protect them was selected,  offering an opportunity to highlight both the unique biodiversity found in these ecosystems, and the need to reduce human dependence on wetland-based resources which could negatively impact this biodiversity.

In Uganda, the African Crane Conservation Programme (ACCP) is using the Grey Crowned Crane as a flagship species to raise awareness for wetlands. The team was thrilled to participate in a World Wetlands Day event in Bushenyi on 7 February 2020, highlighting the crane and wetlands conservation work being implemented by the Endangered Wildlife Trust/International Crane Foundation/NatureUganda partnership. Members of the community were also present to showcase how they conserve wetlands and the biodiversity found in these habitats, and to learn from their counterparts involved in similar work elsewhere in the country.

The team braved the hot sun, displaying their messages of enhancing the protection of the Grey Crowned Crane on a 1.5 km march from Nyaruzinga wetland to the exhibition grounds, where they then set up an exhibit showcasing the economic value of wetlands. The role of Conservation Agreements in ensuring community buy-in for this work was also highlighted.

Of course, Uganda was not the only place the ACCP celebrated World Wetlands Day. The ACCP across Africa celebrated by participating in indabas, presentations, radio talk shows, clean up campaigns, restoration work, crane monitoring, community outreach and education and sharing the crane message. Activities included:

South Africa

  • Participated in the Edendale Mall Mini Wetland Indaba held in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), a busy mall situated adjacent to a wetland, which is set in an urban area with high density of people adjacent. This indaba focused on learning from one another, sharing successes and failures and networking.
  • Hosted a stand at the 6th Provincial World Wetland Day in Matatiele, Eastern Cape. This event had over 500 participants from local schools, community members, municipality through to government officials and the MEC.
  • Launched a community giving back campaign in the Mqatsheni area in Underberg, KZN. The aim of the campaign is for local community members to assist the local high school in any way they possibly can either through extra lessons, training, support, or being a mentor.
  • Started an Eco Brick project in the Mqatsheni area to showcase the various uses of the bricks, with the aim of building a house in the area and showing what residents can do with their waste instead of just dumping it into the streams and wetlands.
  • Gave a talk at Kwachibikhulu Primary School, which included a wetland clean up in Chrisiesmeer Protected Environment.

Senegal

  • Celebrated World Wetlands Day in Koussabel with 20 primary school teachers, showing them around the project area, the resident cranes, and highlighting the importance of the ACCP project in the area.
  • Conducted Black Crowned Crane nest surveys in Koussabel islands and Baila river and wetlands with the ACCP trained Eco Rangers to record all the nest sites in the area.

Zambia

  • Officially launched the 2018 Kafue Flats Aerial Survey Report which draws attention to the Kafue Flats Restoration Programme in Zambia.
  • Acted as part of the organising committee for the World Wetlands Day celebration festival, which was held in the Lochinvar National Park in Zambia. Our team hosted the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Jean Kapata MP, who officiated at the official celebration with the team moderating the discussions and highlighted the Kafue Flats Restoration Programme as contributing to the Wetlands Policy.

Kenya

  • Took part in interviews on a local Kenyan radio station, speaking about the importance of wetlands, why we need to celebrate them, and the work that the ACCP is doing in Kenya to protect our wetlands and the birds who are dependent on them.