WATCH | How exposing the feathered sentinels who stand guard over South Africa’s wetlands

Image: Beautiful News.

Our national bird could soon be nothing more than a figment. All three crane species in South Africa – the blue, wattled, and grey crowned crane – are endangered.

But while they’re still here, these birds have a vital message which Daniel Dolpire is exposing.

“Cranes are the indicator species for the threatened habitats they live in,” he explains, “habitats that, if protected and restored, are vital for the water resources upon which all life depends.”


In 2013, Dolpire embarked on a five-year expedition during which he captured the beauty and importance of these majestic birds. “I took over 50 000 images,” Dolpire says.

From his photos of the birds eating, breeding, and travelling, it’s clear that each species is unique. With gangly legs and long, feathered tails, blue cranes glide across the grasslands.

Grey crowned cranes have halo-like tufts floating above their distinct white, red, and black faces.

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Finally, there’s the wattled cranes wandering through the wetlands with their brightly-hued lappets. Such stark differences make these birds a wonder.

Dolpire’s photography book, The Sentinels, maps out the best places and times to view them in the wild.

It also captures the hearts of readers to inspire action. “Photographers must use their images to bring about change for the benefit of the planet,” Dolpire says. “It has been a huge privilege to be part of an important conservation initiative.”

For our environment to survive, we need to keep cranes alive and thriving.