Joey the Stanley crane was born in South Africa. In 1914 he was brought to England and kept as a captive bird at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in Surrey where he lived until his death in 1935. In 1940 Joey was presented to the Museum by conservationist, author and plant expert John Scott Lennox Gilmour who was the Assistant Director of Kew at the time. We do not know why he chose to give this special bird to RAMM.
In 1935 The Journal of the Kew Guild described his eventful life:
‘The passing of “Joey.” “Joey” (a Stanley Crane) has been the centre of attraction of the many who have frequented the Gardens for nearly 20 years, but this summer alas! he will be seen no longer strutting haughtily around the refreshment Kiosk. He was found downed in the Lake on the morning of January 31st, 1935. It is presumed that in crossing from the island to the main lakeside he fell through the thin ice and was unable to free himself and was consequently frozen in.
He had been called the “G.O.M.” [Grand Old Man] of the Gardens, and had been photographed for the Press on scores of occasions, while on the day of his death the news placards of a leading London newspaper bore the legend “Joey of Kew dead.”
“Joey” has had an eventful life. Once he lost a toe through stepping into the rotating cutters of the motor mower. He figured too, in a love affair, and drove away the mate of a dainty Demoiselle Crane and tried in vain to take his place in the little lady’s affections. He had his friends too among the feathered community of the Gardens and acted as guardian to the storks who were being terrorised on one occasion by geese. “ Joey” had his peculiarities, and it was not everyone who could approach him with impunity. He was doubtless one of the oldest of his kind in this country.’
RAMM’s specimen seems to have all its toes. It is plausible that the taxidermist made Joey a fake toe or that reports were exaggerated and Joey’s toe was damaged rather than lost. One toe doesn’t look quite like the others. An x-ray would tell us for sure but he is far too big for RAMM’s machine which is the size of a large microwave and most commonly used for assessing small archaeological metal objects. RAMM made Joey a new base so he would fit in the display case. His original base is safely in store.
The Stanley crane is also known as the blue or paradise crane and is the national bird of South Africa. It is a symbol of peace and resolution, and forms an important part of tribal belief for the Xhosa who call it 'indwe'. These striking birds live in large flocks and have complex mating displays that involve running, jumping, flapping and twig-tossing. Whilst the Stanley crane is still common in many areas of its original range, the IUCN has this bird listed as vulnerable to extinction. Stanley crane often feed on crops, and since the 1970s their numbers have declined rapidly due to intentional and accidental poisoning from agricultural chemicals. They are also losing the grasslands they require for breeding to mining, afforestation, agriculture and development, and they are frequently killed by collisions with power lines. Thankfully efforts are being made to protect this beautiful bird and stricter legal protection, combined with habitat management, have slowed its decline. Come and meet Joey in the In Fine Feather gallery.