Conservationist experts have expressed worry over the possibility of extinction of Uganda’s national bird, the crested crane.
The grey crowned crane which is on both the national flag and Court of Arms has over the years been dropping in population, and experts are warning that if no drastic steps are taken, it could soon become extinct.
Achilles Byaruhanga, the Executive Director of Nature Uganda sounded the warning on Wednesday while speaking during the Crane Festival at Buranga primary school in Kamuganguzi Sub County in Kabale district.
The festival was aimed at pushing awareness on the plight facing Uganda’s most important bird.
The Nature Uganda boss revealed that crested cranes, being one of the major tourist attractions, have been targeted for trade and witchcraft.
The birds he said are also captured and exported illegally.
These are also endangered by the rapid encroachment on wetlands, which are their primary breeding ground.
Recent studies indicate that in the past two decades in Uganda and Kenya, the population of the Grey Crowned Crane has dropped by 80% with their nesting sites most affected by human-wildlife conflict.
The birds are said to be spending more time looking out for human and livestock encroachment instead of tending to their eggs and chicks; which has translated into high mortality rate of crane chicks and subsequently a drop in the population of mature birds.
Byaruhanga reiterated Nature Uganda’s commitment to continue sponsoring educational programs on the importance of cranes and wetland conservation.
The Kabale district Environmental Officer Evas Asiimwe asked the residents to embark on efforts for restoration of wetlands in the district which have been degraded.
Asiimwe asked residents to form groups that can be supported in income-generating activities that don’t endanger wetlands such as beekeeping and fish farming.