KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsHlatikulu Crane Sanctuary
N3 to Nottingham Road turn off. Head to the Kamberg Valley and Giants Castle for 40 km. After Northington Estate, take the D11 following the signs to Hlatikulu Sanctuary
When? 08h00 to 17h00 Monday to Friday (weekends by appointment only)
Note The exact GPS coordinates are unknown and have been placed in the Hlatikulu Valley
How? Call +27 (0)33 263-2441
The vlei is also home to just under another 80 species of birds, a veritable feast of bird watching with specials like Denham's bustard, the Cape vulture, African marsh harrier and freckled nightjar. As a result the vlei forms a very important part of the Southern KwaZulu-Natal Bird Route.
Injured or poisoned cranes are brought to the sanctuary from the surrounding areas, the natural habitat of all three cranes but in particular the wattled crane, which is critically endangered in South Africa.
There are only around 90 pairs of wattled cranes in the country who are exceptionally dependent on quality wetlands to breed. Most of the wattled cranes in South African are found in the KZN highlands. Yet scientists estimate that around 80% of the wetlands have been degraded to the point where the birds can no longer use them for breeding.
Hlatikulu is part of the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme, co-ordinated by the Jo'burg Zoo. The wattled crane eggs come from the vlei and the surrounding areas.
As a rule wattled cranes lay one egg, and then a couple of days later possibly a second. However they begin incubating as soon as the first egg is laid, meaning that it develops ahead of any second egg. As soon as the first egg hatches, the chick and the parents leave the nest, in effect abandoning the second egg.
Field workers watch the nests and once the first is hatched they remove the second, incubate it in Pietermaritzburg, and then fly it to the Johannesburg Zoo where they are raised using puppets and costumes to prevent any human imprinting.
The sanctuary has an adoption scheme allowing people to adopt a bird for 6 months to a year. The fee includes living expenses of a crane, an adoptive 'parent' sign on the bird's pen, and regular updates.