This discussion was first published as part of the 2017 Red List update. At the time a decision regarding its status was pended, but to enable potential reassessment of the species as part of the 2018 Red List update this post was kept open. A decision has now been made and this topic is now closed.
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus is endemic to southern Africa with the majority of the global population found in South Africa, a small population in Namibia (c.35 individuals at Etosha [Simmons et al. 2006, K. Morrison in litt. 2012]), and rare sightings in Lesotho (K. Morrison et al. in litt. 2007). There was a potentially small population in Swaziland (c.12 birds) (Parker 1994), but the species is suggested to have disappeared from the country at some point between 1995 and 1998 (Shaw 2015). Occurring in grassland habitats, afforestation has been a significant threat to this species in the past and has been thought to have contributed to population declines and its disappearance from Swaziland (Monadjem et al. 2003). Development of mining and agriculture also are leading to the loss of habitat, while poisoning may also cause some mortality (though thanks to increased awareness deliberate poisoning has reduced) (Shaw 2015). The final major threat that is currently impacting this species is the expanding power-line network, with c.12% of the Overberg population potentially being killed annually due to collisions with power-lines (Shaw et al. 2010).
Despite all of these threats some populations are doing well, with the KwaZulu-Natal population potentially having increased by c.45% over the preceding decade (Shaw 2015). Comparing population estimates from McCann (2000) and McCann et al. (2007) also led the recent 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Shaw 2015) to suggest that there may have been a regional increase of 18% in that time period. However, it also suggested that the original estimates may have been low, and further suggest that the population may have actually undergone a decline of 15% over the past 3 generations (39 years), with a suggestion that the threat level may rise in the future (Shaw 2015). Accordingly the species was assessed on the regional Red List as Near Threatened under criterion A2acde. Suitable habitat continues to under severe threat of degradation and destruction thanks to open cast coal and uranium mining, agriculture and potential gas extraction (K. Morrison in litt. 2016), with the potential for significant future habitat loss. Further development of power-lines and wind farms as well as capture for trade have also been suggested to be potential threats that could impact this species further in the future (K. Morrison in litt. 2016). On the basis of this, the species was globally retained as Vulnerable, but under criterion A3cde (see BirdLife International 2017).
Following a period of review, it has been suggested that the category this species is listed under may be revised. The putative 15% decline over the past 3 generations (Shaw 2015) is insufficient for a listing as Near Threatened, as it does not approach the threshold for Vulnerable under criterion A2 (30% decline over 3 generations). Additionally, this species is undergoing a short-term increase despite the current threats faced by this species. This at least suggests that the species may be able to cope with some of the future threats too and future declines may not be too severe. However, given that the 3 generation period is fairly long for this species it may be most appropriate to suspect that this species may decline in the future, and the decline may approach the threshold for Vulnerable. Therefore, it is proposed that this species be listed as Near Threatened under criterion A3cde.
McCann, K. I. 2000. Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus. In: Barnes, K. N. (ed.) The Eskom Red Data Book of the Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, pp 92-94. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa.
McCann, K.; Theron, L-J.; Morrison, K. 2007. Conservation priorities for the Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) in South Africa – the effects of habitat changes on distribution and numbers. Ostrich 78(2): 205-211.
Monadjem, A.; Boycott, R. C.; Parker, V.; Culverwell, J. 2003. Threatened vertebrates of Swaziland: Swaziland red data book: fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Communications, Mbabane, Swaziland.
Parker, V. 1994. Swaziland bird atlas 1985–1991. Webster’s, Mbabane.
Shaw, J. M. 2015. Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus. In: Taylor, M. R.; Peacock, F.; Wanless, R. M. (ed.), The 2015 Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, pp. 291-293. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa.