Whooping cranes are one of three Canadian bird species listed as globally endangered by the World Conservation Union. Thanks to a long-term co-operative international conservation effort, these amazing birds have been brought back from the brink of extinction in the 1940s. In the winters of 1941-1942 it was estimated that a flock of 16 whooping cranes was all that remained on the planet (International Crane Foundation, 2006). Now, it is estimated that the whooping crane population has risen to 377 wild and 146 captive individuals (WCCA, 2008). However, while whooping crane numbers are increasing they still remain one of the most threatened crane species in the world.
There are numerous factors that have contributed to the decrease in whooping crane populations. In fact, the decline of the whooping crane can be traced all the way back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when unregulated hunting and collecting of whooping cranes, their feathers and their eggs was commonplace.
The long term survival of this species depends on the development of new wild flocks through conservation breeding programs and reintroduction efforts. The Centre for Conservation Research (CCR) works closely with husbandry and veterinary experts at the Calgary Zoo and the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Center to ensure as many cranes as possible are released successfully into the wild.
2. Factors that predict the hatching success of fertile whooping crane eggs in a captive population.
4. Comparing the behaviour of parenting and non-parenting captive adult breeding pairs in both large and small enclosures.A thorough understanding of the factors that influence whooping crane incubation success will allow the CCR to help maximize the output from the conservation breeding program and support the ongoing recovery of this highly endangered species.
To learn more about the Whooping Crane click here.
The Whooping Crane Journey
The whooping cranes bred at the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre go on a lengthy journey that begins before they have even hatched. All of the whooping crane eggs deemed eligible are included in one of two programs – the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) or the Direct Autumn Release (DAR). Those deemed ineligible are kept in captive facilities for education.
The cranes included in the WCEP are shipped to Patuxant Wildlife Research Center in Maryland where the hatched chicks are “costume-reared” until they are 45 days old. During their stay in Patuxant, the birds are also taught to imprint on the ultralight aircraft that will lead them in their migration. The young cranes are then sent to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin where they continue their training with the aircraft. When migration time arrives, the adolescent whooping cranes will follow the aircraft to their wintering grounds at either the St. Marks Refuge or the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. On their journey south, the cranes will learn their migratory route so that in subsequent years they will be able to find their way between their breeding and wintering grounds unescorted.
- Audubon (2006) Whooping Crane (Grus americana) [Internet] Available from: http://audubon2.org/watchlist/viewSpecies.jsp?id=214 Accessed 2009 Jan. 7
- International crane foundation (2006) Whooping Crane [Internet] Available from: http://www.savingcranes.org/whoopingcrane.html Accessed 2009 Jan. 7
- Whooping Crane Conservation Association [WCCA] (2008) Whooping Crane Numbers: April 3, 2008. [Internet] Available from: http://www.whoopingcrane.com/wccaflockstatus.htm Accessed 2009 Jan. 7