Crane Conservation Strategy

The international Crane Conservation Strategy was released in October, 2019, produced by the International Crane Foundation (ICF) on behalf of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Crane Specialist Group. It presents a comprehensive review of all the world's fifteen crane species, their numbers, ecology, threats and conservation plans for the future. This is a major achievment building on the original, first global plan for cranes in 1996.

CITATION: Mirande, C.M. & Harris, J.T. (Eds) (2019). Crane Conservation Strategy. International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA.

The Plan and links

Conservaton Strategy

The Conservation Strategy contains comprehensive chapters on every crane species and every known or projected type of threat to cranes. There are also plans which list goals, targets, and participating organisations from many countries who will tackle the conservation threats for each species. More than 150 specialists from the Crane Specialist Group, including all four Australian members», took part in reviews and writing.

The Sarus Crane chapter was authored by KS Gopi Sundar, with inputs from Rupak De, John Grant, Kandarp Kathju, Timothy Nevard, Simon Mahood, Elinor Scambler, Rajendra Suwal, Triet Tran, Myo Sander Winn, and Robert van Zalinge. The Brolga chapter was authored by Inka Veltheim and KS Gopi Sundar with inputs from John Grant, Richard Hill and Elinor Scambler.

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World Cranes

The most numerous crane in the world is the Sandhill Crane Antigone canadensis, with an estimated population of 827,000 across Canada, the US, Mexico, Cuba, and Russia, with a few birds found at times in China. This species has been the focus of major research including satellite and radar tracking and seed treatments e.g. for maize (corn) to prevent cranes from eating planted cereal crops. The world's smallest crane population is the Endangered Whooping Crane Grus americana, with only 689 birds in the wild in Canada and the US. Some of these birds are in small reintroduced populations. An additional 75 birds are in captivity. Conservation support includes teaching released captive-bred birds to migrate using ultralites, and planting food crops on reserves to feed wintering flocks.

L: World's most numerous: Sandhill Crane (Ian Montgomery)
C: World's most endangered: Siberian Crane (Bernard Dupont). 1994 slide scan, Keoladeo National Park India
R: World's smallest population: Whooping Crane (ICF)

Sandhill Crane Siberian Cranes Whooping Cranes

The Siberian Crane Leucogeranus leucogeranus is Critically Endangered, the world's most threatened crane species. The remaining 3,600 to 4,000 Siberians are almost all in the East Asia population, breeding in the far northeast of Russia, with key summering sites in southeast Russia, Mongolia and summering and wintering sites in China at Poyang Lake. Critical stopover sites are in Russia and northern China. The Siberian Crane is the most wetland-dependent of all species, and the East Asia population is threatened by multiple processes at wetland sites including drainage, dams, pollution, disturbance and hunting, which also affect other crane species in the same locations. The Western/Central Asia population has collapsed due mainly to hunting on migration routes. Siberian Cranes no longer winter at Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur in India (image above).

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Threats to cranes overall in Australia are mostly concerned with habitat loss and degradation in wetlands, changes to cropping types and practices, and disturbance and displacement due to industrial wind facilities and related infrastructure. For more on general risks to Australian cranes visit other pages in Ozcranes Conservation» section.


In southern Australia, threats specific to the Brolga population are listed as: Loss of breeding habitat to Blue Gum Eucalyptus globulus plantations; reduced breeding success due to loss and modification of breeding habitat; and disturbance, especially at flocking sites in the duck-hunting season. Threats specific to northern Australia are: spread of invasive weeds into floodplains and wetland systems; grazing and burning regimes; and egg hunting. Little is known about Brolgas in New Guinea but poisoning is an emerging threat in cropping areas in Papua.

Brolgas nesting at the Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria (E. Silvius)

Brolga nest WTP

L: Duck shooting from a hide in 1908 at Mortlake, southwest Victoria (Melbourne University archive collection)
R: Blue Gum (F and K Starr)

Mortlake, Victoria Blue Gum

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Sarus Crane

There are four populations of Sarus Crane, in South Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan); China-Myanmar; Southeast Asia; and Australia. Threats depend on location but can include conversion of wetlands and agricultural land to industrial and residential use; increasing use of chemicals in agriculture; cropping changes from irrigated wet croplands to dryland or tree crops; and invasive animals and plants in wetlands. The Southeast Asia population is declining rapidly: vast areas of wetlands in Vietnam are being drained for agriculture, and forested wetlands with important crane breeding habitat in Cambodia are being cleared and drained. Eggs and chicks are collected for food and trade. Projected water impoundments for irrigated agriculture may be an emerging threat to breeding wetlands in northern Australia.


A couple of general notes and some minor points for the Brolga and Sarus Crane chapters:

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More in Ozcranes Conservation..

Risks to cranes in Australia»

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