• The black crowned-crane (Balearica pavonia) is an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List “Vulnerable” species found across sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea to Ethiopia. Scientists recognize two distinct subspecies between the east and west parts of its range. Both subspecies are found primarily in wetlands areas of savanna habitats. Freshwater marshes, wet grasslands, and larger bodies of water provide breeding habitat for the cranes. Breeding pairs build their nests from grasses in and around wetlands.

    Besides being the national bird of Nigeria, black crowned-cranes are a culturally important animal to many people. This role contributes to some of the challenges it faces. Adults and eggs are hunted by subsistence hunters and traders and are also sometimes used in traditional medicines.

    Habitat loss plays a critical role in the species’ survival. The crane’s habitat is under stress from both human and natural causes. Drought and bushfires are common, and agricultural activities such as overgrazing, wetlands conversion, and logging occur throughout its range.

    Most populations of black crowned-cranes appear to be declining in number, but regional conflicts have made it unsafe for scientists to conduct detailed count surveys. In most countries, the crane is legally protected. Guinea has suspended international trade of the species, but export continues in other parts of its range, especially Sudan, where continued tension makes enforcement of bans difficult.

    1. What challenges from human activity do black crowned-cranes face?

      Agriculture, wetlands conversion, logging, hunting, and egg gathering all contribute to population decline in black crowned-cranes.

    2. Why is it difficult for scientists to figure out how many black crowned-cranes are left?

      Human conflict in some parts of its range makes it difficult for scientists to travel to conduct detailed population counts.

    3.  Why does egg gathering present a major challenge to the black crowned-crane?

      Egg gathering presents a major challenge because if the eggs are collected they cannot hatch and grow into new adults slowing or preventing population increase.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    drought Noun

    period of greatly reduced precipitation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: drought
    export Noun

    good or service traded to another area.

    International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Noun

    environmental organization concerned with preserving natural ecosystems and habitats.

    savanna Noun

    type of tropical grassland with scattered trees.

    species range Noun

    native, geographic area in which an organism can be found. Range also refers to the geographic distribution of a particular species.

    Encyclopedic Entry: species range
    sub-Saharan Africa Noun

    geographic region located south of the Sahara Desert in Africa.

    subsistence hunting Noun

    pursuit and kill of an animal for personal consumption, not sale.

    subspecies Noun

    (subsp.) group of organisms within a single species, often distinguished by geographic isolation.

    traditional Adjective

    historic or established by custom.

    vulnerable species Noun

    level of conservation between "near threatened" and "endangered." Vulnerable is the lowest of the "threatened" categories.

    wetland Noun

    area of land covered by shallow water or saturated by water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: wetland