Our partners and our work has played a large part in the recovery of Wattled Cranes in South Africa, from the edge of extinction to the 55% increase in the number of birds in the wild since the year 2000.
None of this would have been possible, without the dedicated contribution of our volunteers, partners and the generous support of our donors. Had it not been for their contribution, it is quite possible that by now we would have been able to see South African Wattled Cranes only in zoos and pictures, and that future generations would have been robbed of the opportunity of encountering these enchanting birds in their natural habitat.
Our work is not complete, and for it to continue, we rely on the generosity of organisations and individuals determined not to leave a legacy to future generations poorer than that which they inherited.
Our grateful thanks and those of future generations go to everyone who has supported our efforts to ensure the survival of our cranes and their habitat.
On her death, Lady Nora Usher, a long-time resident of the Midlands, left a substantial bequest, part of which was designated for the benefit of conservation. Her trustees made the decision to focus this bequest on the conservation of cranes. This money provided the KZN Crane Foundation with not only early seed funding, but also the capacity to purchase our headquarters at what is now the Usher Conservation Centre.
In 2001, the KZN Crane Foundation moved to our present facility at the Usher Conservation Centre in Nottingham Road and began the collaboration with three, conservation-minded local landowners which culminated in the establishment of the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve (BBCONR). The aim of the founders was to create a model for environmentally responsible farming, in line with the Ezemvelo sponsored KZN Biodiversity Stewardship Programme, and indeed the reserve, which formally protects 450 ha of Drakensberg Moist Foothill Grassland, was one of the first areas proclaimed under this programme. The reserve, which is home to breeding pairs of both Wattled and Grey Crowned Cranes and increasingly threatened Oribi, was made possible by the generosity and support of the late Mr Peter Brown (father of Mr Chris Brown), Mr Jon Bates (owner of Fordoun Hotel and Spa) and Mr James Berning.
In 2013, as part of our commitment to the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme, we undertook to build a world-class chick rearing facility on the BBCONR. This project was clearly ambitious for an organization of our size. However, with the very generous support of donors and, in particular, our primary sponsor N3TC, we were able to complete the project on time and within budget.
N3TC have also, through their Touching Lives programme, been the principal contributor to our Community Engagement and Education initiative. Indeed, through them, we have been able to introduce the concepts of environmental conservation and a love of the natural world to thousands of young children, whose lives have certainly been touched as a result of the generosity of N3TC.
Over the past year, we have been able to expand the reach of our Education initiative, as a result of the generosity of Northstar Asset Management, who donated a motorbike, which has enabled Nkanyiso Ndlela our education officer to reach more schools.
As we move into the future, technology will play an increasingly important role in our scientific research. Indeed, in our most recent project, which seeks to understand the behavioural dynamics of Wattled Crane chicks as they transition from the fledgling phase to integration with the floater flock and the start of their young adult lives, we rely on technology to track the birds. This technology is by its nature very costly and we would not be able to afford the research without the very generous support of the Han Hoheisen Charitable Trust.
All of the donations outlined above have made our specific projects possible, but without the many smaller, and more regular, donations by individual donors and organizations such as Farmers Agricare it would not have been possible to keep the organization going for nearly thirty years. We therefore re-iterate our profound gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the cranes and the KZN Crane Foundation over the years.