The Great Crane Project
Could one of the world's oldest surviving bird species become the poster child of wetland conservation in the UK?
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2012 15:51

At nearly a metre-and-a-half tall and with a wingspan of two metres, the majestic Eurasian crane is one of the world's largest wetland birds. They are also one of the oldest surviving bird species, and have been on earth for nine million years. With their distinctive trumpeting cry and unusual mating dance, they have inspired and delighted us since the dawn of humanity. They feature in prehistoric cave paintings, and their call was described by Homer in the Iliad - making them the first bird to be mentioned in Western literature.

The crane was once common in Britain - but 400 years ago it was virtually wiped out by excessive hunting and the draining of its wetland habitats to create agricultural land. A tiny population of 15 pairs has managed to take hold in East Anglia - but to give the birds a fighting chance of establishing healthy populations in British wetlands, The Great Crane Project was launched. The plan is to reintroduce 100 hand-reared youngsters over a five-year period into the Somerset Levels and Moors, a 60,000 hectare floodplain in the south-west of the UK.

It is hoped that this iconic bird will become a 'poster child' of wetland conservation, capturing the imagination of the public, landowners and other organisations, and encouraging the preservation of these valuable habitats.

Joyce Ohajah attempts to track down the beautiful but elusive cranes with the help of a cunning disguise and a radio tracker.

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