Environmental Management

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 972–983 | Cite as

Cranes and Crops: Investigating Farmer Tolerances toward Crop Damage by Threatened Blue Cranes (Anthropoides paradiseus) in the Western Cape, South Africa

  • Julia L. van Velden
  • Tanya Smith
  • Peter G. Ryan


The Western Cape population of Blue Cranes (Anthropoides paradiseus) in South Africa is of great importance as the largest population throughout its range. However, Blue Cranes are strongly associated with agricultural lands in the Western Cape, and therefore may come into conflict with farmers who perceive them as damaging to crops. We investigated the viability of this population by exploring farmer attitudes toward crane damage in two regions of the Western Cape, the Swartland and Overberg, using semi-structured interviews. Perceptions of cranes differed widely between regions: farmers in the Swartland perceived crane flocks to be particularly damaging to the feed crop sweet lupin (65 % of farmers reported some level of damage by cranes), and 40 % of these farmers perceived cranes as more problematic than other common bird pests. Farmers in the Overberg did not perceive cranes as highly damaging, although there was concern about cranes eating feed at sheep troughs. Farmers who had experienced large flocks on their farms and farmers who ranked cranes as more problematic than other bird pests more often perceived cranes to be damaging to their livelihoods. Biographical variables and crop profiles could not be related to the perception of damage, indicating the complexity of this human-wildlife conflict. Farmers’ need for management alternatives was related to the perceived severity of damage. These results highlight the need for location-specific management solutions to crop damage by cranes, and contribute to the management of this vulnerable species.


Farmers Attitudes Crop damage Cranes Human-wildlife conflict 



This study was supported by the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the University of Cape Town. The authors thank Glenn Ramke for help with conducting interviews, Brigid Crewe for help with logistics, and Beatrice Conradie for help with formulating the list of questions used to structure interviews. Michael Duckitt, Richard Kruger, and Arnold van der Westhuisen helped with interview setup. They especially thank all farmers who participated in the survey.

Author contributions

All authors conceived and designed the survey; JVV carried out the interviews and performed the analysis, and JVV and PGR wrote the manuscript.


This study was funded by a donation from Tygerberg Bird Club, and educational financing was received from the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants/informed content

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Cape Town, Faculty of Science Research Ethics Committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Every care was taken to ensure anonymity of questionnaire respondents. All respondents were given an informed consent form containing information about the research and authors, and signed a statement that they had read and understood its contents.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia L. van Velden
    • 1
  • Tanya Smith
    • 2
  • Peter G. Ryan
    • 1
  1. 1.Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of ExcellenceUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.The Endangered Wildlife TrustJohannesburgSouth Africa

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