The Grey Crowned Crane is the most wide spread and culturally significant of the African cranes. The total African population has declined significantly over the last four decades, having abandoned certain areas of its former range. Its global population is estimated to be approximately 30,000 individuals, with the majority (18,000) being represented by the east African subspecies (Balearica regulorum gibbericeps).
A recent KZN annual crane survey puts the number of Grey Crowned Cranes in the KZN area at approximately 3,000 . Population numbers in other areas of South Africa are less well documented, however it is estimated that there are c. 1,000 birds in the Eastern Cape, and about 350 in the north-east Free State / southern Mpumalanga region.
The South African population experienced a 55 % decline during the 1980/90’s, but in KZN it has recovered from under 2,000 to approximately 3,000 in the period 2000 to 2014. It is believed that this recovery is due to an increased awareness of the plight of cranes by farmers and their involvement in conservation measures.