Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve - home of the KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation

Nottingham Road

Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve - home of the KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation

Eco-Design/Planning FeatureWildlife HabitatWetlandsAquatic HabitatGreen BuildingWildlife Center/ZooGreen RoofEnergy Conservation


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The KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation (KZNCF) is the only non-profit organisation in the province solely dedicated to the conservation of South Africa’s three threatened crane species. Since 1989, the foundation has successfully fostered public awareness of the threats to crane survival and encouraged active stewardship of KwaZulu-Natal’s diminishing wetland and grassland ecosystems upon which cranes and human communities depend.

It is the aim of the KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation to promote the conservation of southern Africa’s three species and the preservation of their wetland and grassland habitats.

The Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve (BBCONR) is a conservation area that targets the active conservation of the endangered oribi, critically endangered Wattled Crane and the threatened Southern African Grey Crowned Cranes through the sound and sustainable management of its grasslands. It emanated from the donation of three adjacent subdivisions of land from three different landowners. Title deed and overall management have been entrusted to the KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation (KZNCF) while the previous owners regain the utilisation right of grazing with domesticated animals.

N3 Toll Concession provided a substantial grant to the KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation to construct Africa’s first “green” bird chick rearing facility (nursery) on the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve. This is an isolation-rearing facility and costumed caretakers are rearing the chicks, teaching them to forage during daily excursions to the natural grasslands and wetlands in this reserve. The chicks will remain in this nursery until they are old enough to withstand the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands temperatures at which time they will be moved to the wetland pens where they will learn to roost in water to avoid predators at night. A small damlet has been constructed especially for this purpose at the nursery. Young cranes will be placed in a wetland pen in the evenings so they learn to seek the safety of water once they are released into the wild.

No effort has been spared to design and construct a state-of-the art conservation facility. Not only is the Wattled Crane rearing facility in an ecologically-sensitive environment, but sustainable and environmentally-friendly principals have been applied in its construction. The design blends in well with the landscape, minimising the visual impact thereof. The main building housing the chicks is covered with a low, single grass roof which is not only unobtrusive, but also offers improved special insulation. This building is clad in natural material to reduce imprinting of birds with a man-made environment. The crane food preparation and caretakers’ quarters are roofed with a charcoal corrugated roof with solar panels and treated with smooth plaster and natural paint. This section of the structure will never be seen by the birds and is used as the entrance to the facility.

The young Wattled Cranes’ two exercise yards and wet pens are dome-shaped structures which blend in well with the rolling hills of the area at the foot of the Drakensberg. Two galvanized steel domes are covered with flight netting in a secure underground ring beam to prevent predators from digging through. It is further secured with steel mesh and electric fencing around the lower parts of the domes.

As part of the Midlands Conservancies Forum Walks, you are invited to the Bill Barnes Nature Reserve in Nottingham Road on the third Tuesday of each month, 09h00 – 11h00.
The reserve, usually not open to the public, supports the three species of cranes, the Wattled Crane Nursery, endangered oribi, red-winged francolin, reedbuck and 155 species of plants found in the Drakensberg Moist Foothill Grassland – a Vulnerable, highly irreplaceable ecosystem.

Contact Warwick Fraser to book: +27 (0)84 779 5375

Warwick Fraser +27 (0)84 779 5375


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Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve - home of the KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation

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