In September 2013, photographer Daniel Dolpire set off on a passion-driven odyssey that would consume the next five years of his life. The Sentinels – Cranes of South Africa is the culmination of that epic journey.
It is little wonder that cranes so captivated Daniel. They are some of the most stately and spectacular of all birds. The largest of them are the tallest flying birds on the planet. Their plumage is typically striking and members of the family are acclaimed for the intricate patterning on their faces and heads. The habits of these elegant birds are no less entrancing. Their joyous and acrobatic dancing is simply breathtaking. The sounds of their resonant trumpeting calls are among the most powerful and evocative in the avian world.
Sadly, cranes are also some of the most threatened of birds. No fewer than 11 of the world’s 15 species are now considered in danger of extinction. The main threats come from the wanton destruction of the expansive wetlands that these birds are so reliant on for their continued survival. But other perils intrinsic to our increasingly crowded planet also take their toll. The demise of cranes is by no means unavoidable though. They are adaptable animals capable of living alongside humans if they are afforded a measure of tolerance.
South Africa supports three crane species. The courtly Blue Crane
occurs virtually nowhere else in the world and is the country’s national bird. The majestic Wattled Crane is among the most endangered birds in South Africa. The ornate Grey Crowned Crane is one of the most beautiful birds on earth but, worryingly, it seems to be decreasing across its broad African range even faster than the other two species.
The Sentinels is a photographic festival celebrating the beauty and uniqueness of these remarkable birds. Daniel travelled through the heart of South Africa’s ‘crane country’, meticulously documenting these birds in their natural habitat. Sharing with us timeless images of cranes at rest and in action as they go about their daily routines, he draws us deep into the private lives of these flagship species, even revealing intimate details of their nesting activities.
Towards the end of the project, Daniel brought in local ornithologist David Allan to ensure that the volume was underpinned by a scientifically rigorous text.
The Sentinels provides an unmatched window into the allure and wonder of South Africa’s cranes and the enchanting places they call home.