Grace of Cranes by Paul Herwood

In 2009, American Biologist Ann Burke, was invited by a local Public Benefit Organization, the KZN Crane Foundation, to assist them as the newest partner to the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme, of which Ann contributed in founding in the year 2000. Ann’s role with the Foundation was initially to conduct a public awareness and fundraising campaign to build and support a Wattled Crane chick rearing facility on the Bill Barnes Crane and Oribi Nature Reserve.

Ann, who is a crane expert, embarked on these challenges with a selfless determination which has often been described as “missionary zeal.” Many have either heard Ann’s inspiring talk on cranes, or received her corporate presentation to secure funds to build the Nursery. Ann has become a familiar face in the Midlands, with her boundless love and passion for cranes playing a pivotal role in the Nursery being built, earning her the respect of locals who affectionately call Ann “The Crane Lady.”

Ann was looking forward to 2014 and taking up her post as the Foundation’s Release Project Manager, and fulfilling her life’s dream of raising and releasing cranes in Africa and pursuing a Doctorate in the process.

Sadly Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer in January, which has temporarily halted her dream. With the honourable support of the Midlands communities, Ann is currently undergoing an intensive ten month treatment regimen at the Pietermaritzburg Hopelands Cancer Centre, under the caring and compassionate guidance of Oncologist Dr Robbie Dent, who expects Ann to make a full recovery.

Ann is looking forward to returning to work in January 2015 to raise Wattled Crane chicks in the Nursery for release back into the wild. So when next you see Wattled Cranes gracing our skies and wetlands, please remember our Country’s gentle-spirited guest and her inspirational and courageous journey.