Loss and degradation of wetland and grassland breeding and foraging habitats constitute the most significant threat to this species, mainly through the loss of wetlands to intensified agriculture, dam construction, forestation and industrialization. Grassland areas surrounding wetlands, suitable for breeding, are as important to successful breeding as the wetland itself. When these areas are disturbed, through the planting of exotic timber, they are often rendered incompatible with Wattled Crane nesting requirements. In addition, many hundreds of hectares of grassland habitats are converted annually to intensive agriculture for food production, in many cases this conversion involves the draining of wetlands and the loss of crane nesting and foraging sites.
Incompatible management of wetland habitats also constitutes a threat. During the winter months, the peak period for Wattled Crane breeding activity, the burning of wetlands, as fire-breaks, on farmland and forestry property , leads to the loss of eggs or young unfledged chicks.
Wattled Cranes, especially first-year inexperienced flying birds, are prone to colliding with power lines, especially 11 and 22 kV rural power lines, often located within territories between roosting and feeding sites.
Wattled Crane chicks and eggs are occasionally removed from the wild for the international bird trade, which could have a significant impact on South Africa’s small breeding population. Measures are being taken to control the illegal trade in cranes both domestically and internationally.