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The Crane (Gruidae): The Status of Conservation Management in the most three Cranes Endangered Species.

SOPHANY PHAUK Species Conservation Conservation Biodiversity Center Royal University of Phnom Penh

Submitted to Mark Auliya, PhD.


Cranes, an ancient family of birds, have graced our planet’s skies and stalked the grasslands and wetlands for at least 40 million years. The fossil record includes at least 17 extinct species, many of which were closely related to African Crowned Cranes (Brodkorb 1967). With the record of cranes, we have found the distribution in 5 continents, there are Asia and Africa suggests an Old World origin of Gruinae, with a more recent colonization of Australia and North of America (Archibald, 1976a). Besides, there is no evidence that the cranes ever inhabited in South America. All cranes are in one of two subfamilies, Balearicinae or Gruinae, in the family Gruidae (showed in the Table 1-1). The two species of African Crowned Crane are placed in the subfamily Barlearicinae (Peters, 1934). Cranes are omnivorous and some species rely heavily on aquatic food (Walkinshaw, 1973) such as Eastern Sarus Crane (Grus a. sharpie). Most Cranes probe the subsurface with their bills and take foods from the soil surface or vegetation. In addition, the greater part of the diet consists of crayfish, plant tubers, chufa, rodents, frogs, berries, bird’s eggs and nestlings (Herter, 1982). For the breeding season, there are different in habitats and species or subspecies. The annual cycle of cranes can be divided into 3 to 5 months nesting period and a longer non breeding. The Cranes breeding season is either associated with distinct seasonality in the higher latitudes or with the wet or rainy season in lower latitudes (Meine et al.,1996) such as wetland. Cranes generally are monogamous. Mated birds stay together throughout the year, and typically remain paired until one bird dies. Most studies indicate that individuals do not successfully reproduce until they are between four and eight years old (Kuyt, 1987). With the concern of extinction, present, the fifteen species of cranes constitute one of the most endangered families of birds in the world (Meine et al.,1996). Cranes have also played an important role in the rise of the international conservation movement. In particular, for example, the recovery of the Whooping Crane from near extinction has provided strong impetus to the conservation movement (Meine et al.,1996). Concerning on the extinction, the threat in cranes is invaded to their population throughout the human activities and habitat loses. For example, the conversion of wetlands (habitats) for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes (including urban, commercial, and recreational development, oil exploration, and road construction) is the most significant factor affecting cranes and their habitats around the world (Zhang, 1994). In addition, Agricultural not only expanded to the wetland but also into grasslands has also appropriated crane breeding and foraging habitat, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, parts of South Africa, the steppe regions of Eurasia, and savannas and prairies in North America (Allen, 1952). Many Cranes are now become threatened throughout the world (Table: 1-2). In U.S.A, the Whooping Crane is the rarest of the world’s 15 crane species. The species’ historic decline, near extinction, and gradual recovery is among the best known and documented cases in the annals of conservation (Meine et al.,1996). Due to the bad situation of the habitat loses and inversion of agriculture, the activities of captive breeding and reintroduction are considered to the researchers and conservation.

Table 1-1: World species and subspecies of cranes and their geographic distribution (Walkinshaw, 1973).

Species or Subspecies

Scientific Name


Family Gruidae

Subfamily Balearicinae

Black Crowned Crane

Balearica pavonina

West African Crowned Crane

B. p. pavonina

West Africa

Sudan Crowned Crane

B. p. ceciliae

Central Africa

Gray Crowned Crane

Balearica regulorum

East African Crowned Crane

B. r. gibbericeps

East Africa

S. African Crowned Crane

B. r. regulorum

Southern Africa

Subfamily Gruinae

Wattled Crane

Begeranus carunculatus


Blue Crane

Anthropoides virgo

Southern Africa

Demoiselle Crane

Anthropoides virgo

Asia, Africa

Siberian Crane

Grus leucogeranus


Sandhill Crane

Grus Canadensis

Lesser Sandhill Crane

G. c. Canadensis

East Siberia Arctic N. America

Canadian Sandhill Crane

G. c. rowani

Boreal Canada

Greater Sandhill Crane

G. c. tabida

Northern USA

Florida Sandhill Crane

G. c. pratensis

Southeast USA

Mississippi Sandhill Crane

G. c. pulla


Cuban Sandhill Crane

G. c. nesiotes


White-naped Crane

Grus vipio

East Asia

Sarus Crane

Grus antigone

Indian Sarus Crane

Grus. a. antigone


Eastern Sarus Crane

Grus. a. sharpie

Southeast Asia

Australian Sarus Crane

Grus. a. gilli



Grus rubicunda


Eurasian Crane

Grus grus

European Crane

G. g. grus

Europe, west Asia

Lilford’s Crane

G. g. lilfordi

East Asia

Hooded Crane

Grus monacha

East Asia

Black-necked Crane

Grus ingricollis

Tibetan Blateau

Red – crowned Crane

Grus japonnensis

East Asia

Whooping Crane

Grus americana

North America

Table 1-2: the world Population of Crane and Captivities (1995)

Species or Subspecies




Black Crowned Crane




Gray Crowned Crane




Wattled Crane




Blue Crane




Demoiselle Crane




Siberian Crane




Sandhill Crane (all races)




Cuba Sandhill Crane




Mississippi Sandhill Crane




White-naped Crane




Sarus Crane (all races)




Eastern Sarus Crane








Eurasia (all races)




Hooded Crane




Black-necked Crane




Red-Crowned Crane




Whooping Crane





(Source: George, et al. 1996)

Concerning to the threat of cranes today, the project aims to take on the Husbandly and Conservation of cranes. In this publication, the Captive Breeding, Reintroduction of the cranes will be recognized and the verities technique in Cranes Management. Besides, this paper will provide a really rare and endangered species or subspecies this include Sarus Crane (Grus anitgone), Whooping Crane (Grus americana), and Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus). In order to success in this publication, The Captive Breeding and Reintroduction of the three endangered scpcies/subspeciese will be identified (Table: 1-2).

Whooping Crane - Grus americana

Whooping Crane is one of the most endangered species in crane population in the world. The Whooping Crane, in particular, has been among the world’s most carefully monitored and managed wildlife species since reaching the brink of extinction in the 1940s (USFWS 1994). Through the last fifty years, cooperation in legal protection, habitat preservation, and continuous international cooperation between Canada and the United States has allowed the only remaining wild population to increase steadily from a historic low of just 15 known individuals in 1940-41 to more than 150 at present (Meine et al.,1996).

Whooping cranes recently face to the treats, including habitat loss and popula- tion decline. The concern of extinction, the conservation action, including national and international legal protection tried to make a comprehensive scientific research and monitoring program was established. For example, there two preservation Crane studbook and program coordinator, the Studbook Keeper and Genetic Advisor to Recovery Team, and Claire Mirande, International Crane Foundation (USA) (Meine et al.,1996). Whooping cranes currently exist in the three wild populations - the historic Aransas-Wood Buffalo population (AWP) an experimental cross-fostered Rocky Mountains population (RMP); and an experimental population of recently

released non-migratory birds in central Florida (FP) (Meine et al.,1996) with the five captive breeding locations (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1994) - (Figure1). The Captive Breeding in whooping cranes were starting since a low of only 15 or 16 remained in 1941 in the flock wintering in Texas, United State. Since 1967, biologists have removed single eggs from two-egg clutch nests of the population, using these eggs in

establishing captive and experimental wild populations (Erickson 1976, Kuyt 1993, Edwards et al.

wild populations (Erickson 1976, Kuyt 1993, Edwards et al. Figure1 : Whooping Crane status in Canada

Figure1: Whooping Crane status in Canada and United

State (Source: Meine and George (Eds). 1996)


United State (Source: Meine and George (Eds). 1996) 1994). Figure2 : Whooping Cranes in North America

Figure2: Whooping Cranes in North America (Source:

The increasable populations of this crane are depending on the technique which conservators have to preserve. In most cranes, breeding usually begins between the early age 3 and 6, however, whooping cranes sometimes breeding as early as age 3 (Kuyt and Goossen. 1987). On the one hand, breeding on average, occurs later in Whooping Cranes in captivity (Ellis, et al. 1992). Whooping Crane has no subspecies mostly found in the Louisiana, North America. This species declared endanger in more than six decades from the low population to increasingly until 170 population in the wild and 120 population in the captive breeding (Table: 1-2) where these bird are captive in Patuxent or ICF (International Crane Foundation), with the third captive breeding in center recently established at the Calgary Zoo, Canada (George, et al. 1996). The variation techniques of reintroduction in Whooping Cranes were used, for example in 1975, the release of Cross-fostered Cranes. Sandhill Crane eggs were exchanged for Whooping Crane eggs (289) from Patuxent and Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada ( Drewien et al. 1989 unpubl.). However, this released technique was failed in the experiment in the Grays Lake. In addition, in 1988, the experimental non-migratory population was established which replaced the previous once – Cross-fostered Crane (Meine et al.,1996). The successful in survival releasing 33 Whooping juvenile’s Cranes in 1994 and 52 of Cranes appeared in 1996. With the successfully in Crane Captive Breeding and Reintroduction, the Whooping Cranes will be survived in the future.

Siberian Crane - Grus leucogeranus

The Grus leucogeranus – Siberian Cranes are the distinguish and no subspecies which the most third endangered species after the Whooping Crane – Grus americana and Red Crowned Crane - Grus japonnensis (Meine and George (Eds), 1996). Siberian Cranes are the most highly specialized member of the crane family in terms of habitat requirements, morphology, vocalizations, and behavior. It is the most aquatic of the cranes, exclusively using wetlands for nesting, feeding, and roosting, and has behavioral displays that are quite distinct from other crane species ( crane.html). In general, Siberian Cranes consume a wider variety of food items, both aquatic and terrestrial, on their breeding grounds than on their wintering grounds (Meine, 1996). Siberian Cranes are found in the three different habitats in the world, this including Eastern population, Central population and Western population which exist in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (Figure3). The estimated of Siberian Crane population in the wild is about 3,000 while the population in Captive Breeding is only about 115 (Table2). This means that there is less population in the tree habitats as shown above due to their migration in the group seem to less population. In additional to the concerning of the Siberian Crane population, the soviets established a breeding center for this bird species near Moscowat – the Oka State Nature Reserve in 1979 (George, et al. 1996). Until present, we have a new established of the Studbook Keeper in Chinese – Studbook Keeper: Zhao Qingguo, Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens in Beijing, China (Meine et al., 1996). The remarkable of

Siberian Cranes during the captive experiment in the passed the male survival is late 70 years old while the female once is about 61 years old. This indicated that Siberian Cranes are very resilience to their nature. Siberian Cranes are the least heat tolerant and the most cold tolerant of all cranes.

heat to lerant and the most cold tolerant of all cranes. (a) (b) Figure3 : Siberian


heat to lerant and the most cold tolerant of all cranes. (a) (b) Figure3 : Siberian


Figure3: Siberian Crane distribution – (a) the population in the Western and Central distribution. (b) the population in the Eastern distribution. (Source: Meine et al., 1996)

Siberian Crane’s rang breeding are currently only two. First is from about the confluence of the Ob and Irtysh rivers north to the region of Berezovo, and the second is from the basin of the Indigirka (from its mouth south to the Moma River) west to the Khroma River and the lower Yana (Paul, 1983a). Recognizing that the Siberian Crane has the longest migration route of all crane species, ranging from breeding areas in the Arctic regions of Asia to wintering grounds in southern Asia, and that the species is highly dependent on the conservation of shallow wetlands for its survival (UNEP/CMS. ed. 1999). In nature, Siberian Cranes breed at seven years of age or older. However, with improved rearing and pairing techniques, Siberian Cranes are now breeding as early as four to six years of age (Panchenko, 1993 unpubl).

One suggestion, there is a possibility that the relatively abundant Eurasian crane can be used to help restore the Central Population of Siberian cranes. Eurasian cranes breed among Siberian

of Siberi an cranes. Eurasian cranes breed among Siberian Figure4 : Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus) at

Figure4: Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus) at Keoladeo National Park, India, 1982. (Source: George, et al. 1996)

cranes on the Kunovat Basin, and it is probable that these Eurasian cranes spend the winter along the northern border of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Afghanistan (UNEP/CMS. ed. 1999). Flocks of other Eurasian cranes share the southern part of their migration route to India with Siberian cranes. The winter range of the Eurasian crane overlaps with that of the Siberian crane in India. Some Eurasian cranes in India may migrate along safer migration routes over the Himalayas (Figure3a). However, for populations that migrate across the Hindu Kush Mountains, crane mortality must be reduced before restoration efforts for Siberian cranes can be successful (UNEP/CMS. ed. 1999). However, while the conservation of Captive breeding and Reintroduction became significant for Siberian Cranes, the disturbance of human activities and inadequate protected area management were continuing. For example, Crane hunting is a traditional sport in the areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan where the population passes during migration (Meine et al., 1996). The less controlling in Siberian Cranes mostly appeared in Central population and Western population. In view of the threat to Siberian Cranes, efforts should be made to try to adjust hunting seasons to a void coincidence with Siberian Crane migration.

Sarus Crane - Grus antigone

Sarus Crane was believed that the only species appeared in the Mekong River region. Sarus Crane is one of the world tallest species in the family of Gruidae, about 2 meters in length (Eric, 2006). Grus antigone has three subspecies: Indian Sarus Crane (Grus a. antigone), Eastern Sarus Cran (Grus a. sharpii) and Australia Sarus Crane (Grus a. gilli) (Figure5). The three subspecies are

distinguished mainly by morphological differences. G. a. antigone is taller than G. a. sharpii and G. a. gilli (Meine at el,. 1996). The dividing

point between the ranges of G. a. antigone and G. a. sharpie falls in Eastern India and Myanmar. G. a. sharpii may exist in two separate populations: the known birds of the lower Mekong basin in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam; and (assuming it still exists) an isolated population in Eastern India, Myanmar, and Yunnan. G. a. gilli occurs exclusively in Australia (Schodde et al., 1988) differentiated it based on its smaller size, larger and darker ear patches, and more extensively feathered throat. The Sarus Cranes that occurred in the Philippines may have belonged to a distinct subspecies Grus (Antigone) antigone luzonica, although we have no longer seen since the early 1970s and now presumed to be extinct (Eric, 2006).

early 1970s and now presumed to be extinct (Eric, 2006). Figure5 : The distribution of the

Figure5: The distribution of the Sarus Crane – Grus antigone (Source: Meine at el,. 1996)

Indian Sarus Cranes (Figure6) are found in the plains of northern, northwestern, and western India and the western half of Nepal’s Tarai lowlands. With the concern of population, the surveyed at Bharatpur district, India, shown a bad management between past and present (Figure7) (SREE, 2008). Eastern Sarus Cran (Grus a. sharpii) are found in throughout Indochina including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. The designation of the Sarus Crane Reserve, in February 2000, at Ang Tropeang Thmor highlights the need and possibility for species-specific reserves and sanctuaries to be added into the protected areas

system (National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, 2002). With the ancient conservation Sarus Cranes were appeared during the Angkorian society (Figure8). Australian Sarus Crane (Grus a. gilli) is the only crane subspecies that native to the Austalia (Figure5). This subspecies population is about 5,000 birds and it is though to be increased due to change in agriculture practices (eric, 2006).

due to change in agriculture practices (eric, 2006). Figure6 : The Indian Sarus Crane – Grus

Figure6: The Indian Sarus Crane – Grus a. antigone

Figure7: A comparison of present and past population of Sarus Crane from Bharatpur district, India
Figure7: A comparison of present and past population of Sarus Crane
from Bharatpur district, India

Concerning the varying of Global Changes and Human activities, one of the seriously subspecies in Grus antigone is Eastern Sarus Crane (Grus a. Sharpii) which appeared in a small population in Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and some parts of Lao PDR during the breeding season (Table2). In1984, the Royal Forest Department of Thailand established a center near Bangphra for the captive management of Eastern Sarus Cranes. (George, et al. 1996). Moreover, the Eastern Sarus Crane International Studbook Keeper was occurred

in Jumpon Kotchasit, Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Chonbur, Thailand (Meime et al., 1996). In addition to the Sarus Crane in Thailand today,

there is no records of this bird exist in Thailand but recent breeding records of Sarus occur in Myanmar and Cambodia (Battambang and Preah Vihear Provinces) near Thailand (Figure9). If wetland areas in Thailand can be protected, Eastern Sarua Carne could realdily re-establish themselves in Thailand as they have in Vietnam (Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Programme, 2006). Since the rediscovery of Eastern Sarus Cranes in the Mekong River, several international initiatives have been undertaken to protect the population and its habitats. For example, in Vietnam, the Mekong Delta Crane Management Zone, Tram Chim, played an important roll in habitat ecology of Eastern Sarus Cran. In Cambodia, Siam Pang Important Bird Area is a breeding area for the Sarus Crane (Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Programme, 2006). Concerning to the Captive breeding and reintroduction of Eastern Sarus Crane seem to less information and research in the Southeast Asia. However, Many of the captive Eastern Sarus Cranes are birds from northern Cambodia that were confiscated by the Thai government after being brought into captivity illegally by dealers (Meine at el,. 1996). These birds are now being managed to support a possible reintroduction program.

g managed to support a possible reintroduction program. Figure8 : Sarus Cranes appear on the bas-reliefs

Figure8: Sarus Cranes appear on the bas-reliefs of the Bayon Temple at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, carved more than 600 years ago by Khmer craftsmen, who were recording pictures of everyday life and events in Angkorian society. (Source:

and events in Angkorian society. ( Source: Figure9 : Range of Southeast Asia Population of

Figure9: Range of Southeast Asia Population of Eastern Sarus Crane

Conclusion and Commendation

As described above status of the endangered species of Whooping Crane, Siberian Crane, and Sarus Cane, we make priority conservation measures for the species include:

(1) Full development of the Recovery Team and Recovery Plan; (2) Creation of protected areas on the breeding grounds (3) Upgrading habitat protection and management efforts at the wintering grounds (4) Identification of migration routes, (5) Studies of breeding, migration, wintering, ecology, causes of mortality, and other crucial aspects of Cranes and (6) Development of special educational programs involving hunters along the migration route of the central population and communities near the wintering are as in Iran, India, China, Thailand Captive propagation and reintroduction efforts should focus on bolstering the western and central populations, maintaining a genetically diverse captive population, and perfecting rearing and release techniques. Moreover, with the success in captive rearing and propagation of cranes is dependent on the cooperation between International Agreements and Cooperation with CITES, IUCN and Other organizations for make a constitutional law to control and protect the Crane species. Therefore, The tree endangered birds above are really needed for conservation management.


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