Adoptive parents are not uncommon amongst humans but have you ever heard of a crane being adopted. That’s exactly what has happened at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo where a wattled crane chick was adopted by two red-crowned cranes.
This species is endangered both in United Kingdom Zoo’s and the wilds of sub-Saharan Africa so when an egg was abandoned bird experts at the zoo worked hard to ensure it would still survive. First it spent time in an incubator. Then just before it hatched they placed it into the red-crowned cranes nest.
Bird team leader, Jamie Graham said, “Introducing the egg to the red-crowned cranes was a delicate process, but we’re thrilled to see how they’ve accepted and raised the chick. It’s a real coup for the breeding programme, and an important development for the protection of the species.”
Luckily the cranes took it on as their own and have been feeding the chicks along with teaching it all the social, foraging and predator evading skills it will need to make it as an adult crane.
It hasn’t been easy for the zoo to arrive at this stage though as Graham explained, “With only eight wattled cranes in the UK, and between 4000 and 6000 left in the wild, our team here at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo decided to collaborate with Paradise Park in Cornwall and Paignton Zoo in a final attempt to breed the species in Britain. It was always going to be difficult because wattled cranes are renowned for very low fertility rates.”
“Four birds were assembled here and eventually a compatible breeding pair was established. After months of courtship behaviour, we were delighted to see that the pair had produced an egg, and obviously very disappointed when it was abandoned,” she added.
Wattled cranes are the world’s second largest crane species. Unfortunately they are also the most endangered of Africa’s cranes. Their decline has come from the loss and degradation of wetlands.
Photo Credit: ZSL Whipsnade Zoo