New hazards, 1788-

Infrastructure and debris have introduced new hazards to the environment for cranes since first European settlement. In Hazards 2, Ozcranes looks at new risks for cranes including collisions and farming conflicts. Risks from native and feral animals are in Hazards 1».


Collisions

Powerlines

Brolga mortality from powerline impact has been quantified in southwest Victoria, and a PhD study including potential effects of wind farm developments (from turbines and additional distribution lines) on the same population is underway.

Jonathan Munro of Wild Watch took the images below of immature Sarus Cranes injured and killed by powerline collision on the Atherton Tablelands. A new powerline across a traditional foraging paddock appeared to be causing the problem. ‘I... found 5 young Sarus Cranes, all with their legs broken from colliding with the nearby power lines... Two of the young birds were still alive with their heads up and with their parents still in attendance. The other three birds were already dead but still very fresh.’ The concerned farmer and Jonathan contacted Ergon Energy and flag markers were placed on the line.

October 2012: Immature Sarus Crane with both legs broken, and wider shot showing habitat (J. Munro, Wild Watch).

Injured Sarus Injured Sarus

Powerline collisions are known to be the main source of mortality for Sarus Cranes wintering on the Atherton Tablelands (J Grant, E Scambler) and all known incidents have occurred on distribution lines close to roosts or foraging fields. As yet, there is no formal database of incidents or study underway: unless concerned individuals contact the authority (as above), incidents are only recorded due to power outages caused by the collision. In the absence of expert observers, all cranes in power outage incidents are reported as ‘Brolgas’. A program is needed, in cooperation with the energy authority, including at least: (1) a hotline network for reporting events (2) an expert observer to attend and make a record (3) a wildlife vet to attend immediately to injured birds (4) Retrieval and appropriate storage of specimens (whole or in part) for museum curation (involving freezer access and government permits).

An extensive bibliography on powerline collisions is in Sundar, KS Gopi, and BC Choudhury. ‘Mortality of Sarus Cranes (Grus antigone) due to electricity wires in Uttar Pradesh, India.’ Environmental Conservation 32, no. 3 (2005): 260-269. Abstract only in Ozcranes Research»

Fencing

Fence kill

← Brolga killed by barb wire fence collision, S of Normanton and N of Bourke & Wills, far Nth Queensland. Taken on 26 December 2009, at the height of the northern crane breeding season (P. Merritt)

Barb wire is considered essential to control cattle, especially comparatively wild rangeland stock in northern Australia. Both Brolgas and Sarus Cranes have been recorded killed by fence collisions in the Gulf breeding areas and wintering sites on the Atherton Tablelands. Since about 2000 there has also been pressure – and considerable conservation funding – to fence off farm dams and wetlands from stock, to prevent erosion and improve water quality. However the removal of grazing and installation of fencing can threaten large waterbirds including cranes. Ozcranes Crane-Friendly Fencing pages have ideas, discussion and links on alternative designs and methods for stock management and wetland protection.

Roads

Brolgas, especially immatures, have been killed by vehicle impacts near Giru, north Queensland; in the Gulf of Carpentaria; and the Northern Territory (see Brolga FAQ 4»). There are apparently no records of Sarus Crane roadkill in Australia.

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Debris

May 2013: Sarus Crane killed by entanglement in discarded fishing line, Goose Lagoon, Normanton, NW Queensland. Upper and lower views of bird by George Baker, Goose Lagoon from Google

Injured Sarus Injured Sarus

In May 2013, George Baker, Conservation Officer for BirdLife Townsville, visited Goose Lagoon (-17.6466S, 141.089E), a popular fishing and camping site near Normanton, NW Queensland. Sarus Cranes were among more than 20 wetland species feeding or loafing around the lagoon. A dead Sarus Crane entangled in fishing line around neck and legs was found on the shoreline. Discarded fishing line from recreational and commercial fishing is a problem in waterways and coastlines, but this is the first known observation of a crane fatality in Australia.

Fishers for Conservation have an educational program on the risks to wildlife from discarded recreational fishing tackle, and encourage other responsible fishers to extend their activities to new areas of Australia.

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Agricultural conflict

Cropping has created intended and unintended hazards for cranes, with inadvertent poisoning from insecticides as well as persecution by farmers protecting newly-planted crops. Shooting or poisoning is now regarded as rare in southern Australia» (pdf, 211kb) but a recent case occurred in far north Queensland.

dead Brolga

← Dead Brolga, north Queensland 2011 (supplied)

In August 2013, Osprey Australia Pty Ltd, operator of a grazing and grain business on Mandalee Station near Innot Hot Springs SW of Cairns, was fined $15,000 for poisoning 52 birds including 10 Brolgas in 2011. Mandalee Station is adjacent to a property with a major roost for wintering Brolgas and some Sarus Cranes. Cranes feed in Mandalee paddocks by day and the property is important habitat locally for cranes in the non-breeding season.

Government inspectors searched the property and found dead birds in a ‘mass grave’ and piles of corn (maize) coated with the insecticide/nematicide Fenamiphos, an organophosphorous compound toxic to birds. Brolgas are protected under Queensland law, and classified ‘least concern’ (common or abundant) wildlife – the status and number of the animals ‘unlawfully taken’ determines the range of penalties.

The company lost its appeal against the conviction. The District Court Judgement can be downloaded from the Queensland Courts website (pdf 98KB). The Judgement includes details of the events, the poison and the processes followed by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection under the Nature Conservation Act.

Solutions?

Tim Nevard's PhD study includes work with farmers on crop damage from cranes, see Tim Nevard's pages in Ozcranes Research.

Back to Hazards 1» or Conservation Home»

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