African Crane Conservation Programme

Cranes, Power lines and Energy Development

This project aims to understand the impact of the energy sector on cranes and to implement measures to mitigate its effect, in collaboration with the EWT-Wildlife and Energy Programme.

With the increasing demand for energy in both South Africa and across the continent, energy sources and their distribution will increase exponentially over time. Although much of Africa is still largely undeveloped with minimal energy distribution, the African Union and other multilateral agreements are advocating for energy production and distribution to all people. There is therefore the opportunity to proactively address some of these threats, using lessons learnt in South Africa.

According to the monitoring and incident reporting system coordinated by the EWT's Wildlife and Energy Programme (EWT-WEP) , we know that cranes are the family of birds most impacted upon by power line collisions in South Africa, and that this is the primary threat to Blue Cranes and a key threat to Grey Crowned and Wattled Cranes. There is a need to better understand why cranes collide with overhead lines and to develop mitigation measures that will address this and significantly reduce the risk of power line collisions in key crane areas.

The advent of and drive to develop a greener energy for South Africa through wind farms brings with it a suite of unknown consequences and potentially significant threats to cranes. At present South Africa is still operating on a primarily coal driven electricity grid, and, as a result, a significant increase in coal mining applications across South Africa, and in particular in the grasslands, has been seen in recent years. These open cast coal mines destroy grassland and wetland habitat and hence are a major threat to cranes. Added to this, gas mining as a supposedly greener energy is also threatening the Karoo of South Africa.