What started as five-year journey into the world of South African cranes by wildlife photographer Daniel Dolpire and bird expert David Allan has ended in the publication of their “coffee table” book, The Sentinels.The book was launched at the Fordoun Farmers Village in Nottingham Road where over 140 bird lovers and conservationists gathered at the weekend excited to see the final product.Talking to The Witness at the launch, Dolpire said the process of putting the book together took longer than he and Allan first anticipated.“We thought it would take between 18 months to two years but it took us five years of extremely hard work, travelling the country, trying to capture images of the various species of cranes,” he said.Dolpire said the book is “a tool for future awareness” as cranes are “indicators of where there is clean water”.“The significance of the title of this book, The Sentinels, is that cranes are an indicator species for the threatened habitats they live in; habitats that, if protected and restored, are vital for the water resources which all life, including humans, depend on,” he said. “If you see a crane drinking water at a dam or river, you can be sure that water is clean and good enough for humans to drink.”The book takes an in-depth look at the three species of cranes in our country — Blue Crane, Wattled Crane and Grey Crowned Crane.It is also a guide for bird lovers and has mapped out where tourists and avid bird photographers can find each of the different species of cranes.Dolpire added that most of the photographs in the book were taken in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.The KwaZulu-Natal Crane Foundation’s Jon Bates said they were proud to have had the launch in the Midlands as “this is the only area of South Africa which is home to all three species of our cranes”.“The Sentinels has been commented on by renowned retired publishers Ingrid and Philip van den Berg of HPH Publishing as one of the best single species coffee table books they have ever seen. It is really world class and something that we can be extremely proud of,” said Bates.“The most important aspect of this book is that it draws attention to the cranes who are sentinels [or indicator species] of vulnerable habitats such as wetlands and water catchments.”Both Allan and Dolpire said they were “over the moon” with the final product and have already had 12 orders of the books to go to America.To find out more about the book, visit www.ddwildlifephotos.co.za.THE BLUE CRANE:The Blue Crane is the national bird of South Africa. It is endangered and is mostly found in the Overberg region in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, western KwaZulu-Natal and in southern parts of Mpumalanga, according to the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi). Threats to their survival include human population growth, loss of habitat, predation of eggs by dogs, collisions with transmission lines, urbanisation and crop farming.THE GREY CROWNED CRANE:This bird is also endangered. According to Sanbi, threats to this bird are hunting and intentional poisoning by some farmers and landowners.THE WATTLED CRANE:This bird is critically endangered. Sanbi has said their are only a few hundred left in South Africa. The main threats to this bird are habitat loss and the illegal trade of eggs and chicks.