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Puppets Help to Secure Future of Whooping Cranes

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: July 15, 2021 2:15 am

Whooping Crane Chick Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

A keeper uses a crane puppet to provide care to one of the whooping crane chicks at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

Photo Credit: Audubon Nature Institute

Puppets are being used to raise a number of endangered whooping crane chicks which have hatched at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center. This costume rearing approach helps to ensure the chicks are not desensitized to humans and increases their chance of survival in the wild.

After a year of their breeding projects being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic these new hatchlings are an exciting boost for the endangered species. Currently seven chicks are being raised at the center.

"We are thrilled to have bounced back in the wake of the pandemic," said Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center Assistant Curator Richard Dunn. "These chicks represent the collaborative effort that we and our partners share in making an impact on the survival on this precious species."

Whooping Crane Chick Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

A whooping crane chicks emerges from its egg at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

Photo Credit: Audubon Nature Institute

Five of the chicks originate from a migratory population in Wisconsin and had been abandoned by their parents. Another egg came from the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin and the final egg is the result of an artificial insemination undertaken at the center.

The chick bred through artificial insemination is being raised by its mother and "stepfather." while the others are being raised by costumed keepers. This allows keepers to teach them life skills like how to collect food and look out for predators.

These seven chicks have been named after natural phonomena with the names selected include Blizzard, Fog, Hurricane, Lava, Lightning, Tornado and Aurora.

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Each chick born at the center is a genuine boost for the whooping crane population. In Fall these chicks will be released to the wild.

At present 78 whooping cranes live in the wilds of Louisiana. The species has been listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Seven sites in North America are working to breed the species.

Whooping Crane Chick Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

A pair of whooping crane chicks being raised at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

Photo Credit: Audubon Nature Institute

The whooping crane flock living in Louisiana was established in 2011 when 10 birds were moved from the U. S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland and released at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish.

In 2016 this population hatched its first chick since 1939, a significant milestone in the recovery of the species.

Over its history the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center has hatched 200 chicks with many of these returned to the wild.

Audubon Nature Institute work as part of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Whooping Crane Species Survival Plan, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, International Crane Foundation, White Oak Conservation Foundation, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Dallas Zoo, San Antonio Zoo, Calgary Zoo, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to achieve a self-sustaining population of wild whooping cranes through reintroduction programs.

Whooping Crane Chick Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

A whooping crane chicks emerges from its egg under the watchful eye of a keeper at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

Photo Credit: Audubon Nature Institute

Learn more about the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center on their website – Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center

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