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Spare a thought for water on World Wetlands Day!

Today, Saturday 2nd February, is World Wetlands Day! A day when we should all pause for at least a moment to think and remind ourselves of the vital role they play in supporting life and helping peopleÂ’s livelihoods.

The theme for this year is Wetlands and Water Management. Put simply, wetlands take care of water. They act like sponges, soaking up excess water and storing it for when the weather is dry. They are therefore perfect natural flood defences and reservoirs that support the lives of millions of people. Wisely using our wetlands is an essential component of the delivery of sustainable water management.

World Wetlands Day marks the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) on 2nd February 1971 at the Iranian city of Ramsar. The Convention has had a huge positive impact on how wetlands are valued, managed and conserved around the world.

The BirdLife Partnership is proud to be working in support of the Convention, as one of its International Organisation Partners.

“The Ramsar Convention has played a central role in the conservation and protection of wetlands, ” said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife Director of Science and Policy. “Thanks to Ramsar, the importance of wetlands for water, for wildlife, for livelihoods and for storing carbon is increasingly widely recognised. There is much more still to do and World Wetlands Day helps focus us all on the importance of wetlands  for all life on earth.”

Wetlands benefit people and wildlife in all manner of ways. The BirdLife Partner in Rwanda, ACNR, has worked on conserving the Nyabarongo wetlands  Important Bird Area (IBA) as well as benefitting local people whom depend on these wetlands for their livelihoods. Papyrus, which grows at the wetlands, provides a sustainable source of income to local women who weave the plant into handicrafts such as baskets and ceiling panels.

From field research to training, from water resources planning to site management, BirdLife Partners around the world are working for wetlands.“BirdLife is especially active in promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Not only those already included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance but the many other Important Bird Areas that would qualify as Ramsar sites,” said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife Director of Science and Policy.

Many internationally important sites are not yet designated under Ramsar. There is a close overlap between BirdLifeÂ’s Important Bird Area (IBA) Programme and the ConventionÂ’s work. At national level, many BirdLife Partners are advancing the designation of wetland IBAs that meet RamsarÂ’s criteria with their respective governments.

The Wattled Crane


The Wattled Crane - Bugeranus carunculatus - is by far the most endangered crane species in South Africa with only 240 left. They are the most wetland-dependent of Africas crane species and are exceptionally susceptible to disturbance while nesting in wetlands, and will easily desert a nest if disturbed.


It is the largest crane in Africa with the back and wings ashy gray. The feathered portion of the head is dark slaty gray above the eyes and on the crown, but is otherwise white, including the wattles, which are almost fully feathered and hang down from under the upper throat. The breast, primaries, secondaries, and tail coverts are black. The secondaries are long and nearly reach the ground. The upper breast and neck are white all the way to the face. The skin in front of the eye extending to the base of the beak and tip of the wattles is red and bare of feathers and covered by small round wart-like bumps. Wattled Cranes have long bills and black legs and toes. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable although males tend to be slightly larger. Juveniles have tawny body plumage, lack the bare skin on the face, and have less prominent wattles.


Wattled cranes are usually quiet birds. Their calls are high-pitched and include a far-carrying kwaamk bugle-call.


The wattled crane mainly eats aquatic vegetation, but also eats tubers, rhizomes, seeds, small reptiles, frogs and insects. It often submerges its entire head under water when feeding.


Wattled cranes breed only in wetlands. Breeding pairs maintain a territory, so that nests are always at least 500m apart. The nest is a large mound of grasses and sedges placed on a tuft, surrounded by open water. One or two eggs are laid, but only one ever hatches, the other being abandoned. Incubation period is 33-36 days. Fledging period is 135 days. Chicks reach adult height and can fly by four months, but are not sexually mature for 4 to 8 years. 


Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a tour for you or book on one of the following Aves scheduled tours: -

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.


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