The gray crowned crane (Uganda crested crane) is one of Uganda’s national emblems; The crane is the national bird because of its beauty, elegance, and gentle nature. Occupying a prime position on the country’s national flag and coat of arms, the bird has been Uganda’s symbol for over 100 years. The raised leg of the crane symbolizes the forward movement of the country.
According to Achilles Byaruhanga, the executive director of Nature Uganda, an organization dedicated to preserving birds, its records indicate that the Crested Crane has crashed in the last four decades from 50,000 to 20,000 cranes. However, due to the encroachment of man on their habitats, extinction is unavoidable.
“At one time, over 50,000 gray-crowned crested cranes were found in Uganda; at present, the number stands at 20,000. This is due to the encroachment of their habitat, and if nothing urgent is done, we may lose out on these elegant birds,” Muheebwa said.
He further stated that it is the totem of the Bahinda clan of western Uganda and some clans in the central part of the country, whose protection came from the King of Ankole, with the narrative that if it was killed, other birds would hold a vigil at the killer’s home and mourn until the killer went mad or died.
Crested cranes largely live in mixed wetland habitats, river banks, dams, and grasslands, where they mainly feed on grass seeds, small toads, frogs, insects, and other invertebrates.
Across the country, there is illegal encroachment, and this is due to the high population increase, inadequate enforcement from concerned bodies like the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), which is tasked with regulating the use of wetlands, and political interventions.
In a bid to avert this danger, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities is considering applying the full force of the law, and the Uganda Wild Life Education Center is preserving some cranes at the center, mid last month, they welcomed a new gray-crowned crested crane, which had safely been incubated by the mother and father several weeks before hatching.