Olivier NsengimanaSaving Rwanda’s bird of fortune

Published in 2014clockTime to read: 50s

Rwanda’s turbulent history has meant wildlife conservation has not always been able to be a priority, but the situation has improved over recent years. Olivier Nsengimana has been part of this change with an emblematic bird as his flagship species.


In Rwanda, the grey crowned-crane is a symbol of wealth and longevity. But this elegant bird is endangered. With a golden tufted crown and a flame-red spot on its neck, the graceful creature is dying out due to loss of habitat and because it has become a desirable pet for the nation’s elite. It is often found adorning the gardens of hotels and fashionable homes.

It’s time we take initiatives to solve our country’s problems. If other people can do it, why not me?

Veterinarian Olivier Nsengimana has put the grey crowned-crane at the heart of his mission to inspire the next generation of Rwandans to protect their country’s natural heritage. As part of his campaign to raise awareness of the importance of crane conservation, he has established a database of illegally kept cranes in Rwanda, with 216 registered so far, 98 of which have now spent time in a rehabilitation facility as part of the process of reintroduction to the wild.

Other activities include education programmes in schools and engaging local communities by providing opportunities for livelihoods that do not threaten species. At the same time, he is working closely with the government and scaling up pressure to have cranes and other species protected.

Britain’s Prince William recently congratulated Nsengimana for being selected as one of the three finalists of the 2016 Tusk Conservation Awards, of which the prince is patron.

  • 50%—80%

    Percentage fall in the global population of grey crowned-cranes over the past 45 years

  • 300—500

    Estimated grey crowned-cranes in the wild in Rwanda

  • 216

    Illegally kept cranes that Nsengimana has registered so far


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