The Whooping Crane
Table of Contents
In Japan, during WWII, a little girl whose family was very poor, lived in the city of Hiroshima. One day a man came to the town telling a story that could bring good luck to her. The story was about a flock of one thousand beautiful cranes. A farmer that respected and who was devoted to the birds had many seasons of good crops. The storyteller went on to tell the children that if they made a thousand paper cranes, they would have good luck as well. The little girl never completed her task. War reached her before she reached her goal. Although the whooping crane is not the species of crane that is in this story, perhaps if each one of us folds one thousand paper cranes, the whooping crane population will have better luck. The little girl never grew up to amaze the world, but through reintroduction, the offspring of the whooping crane might succeed.
Captive Propagation and Release
After a wild nesting ground was found, the project of reintroducing the whooping crane really began to take off. After studying the way that chicks were incubated and raised, biologists and researchers began to raise the birds in captivity. The eggs could be taken from the wild without affecting the wild flock too much. At first eggs were shipped to the locations of the projects to increase the number of birds in captivity. In 1967 some of the first shipments were made, and since then the cranes have been able to produce enough eggs so that researchers don't have to take them from the wild. However, the first birds captured by the researcher seemed unable to produce fertile eggs. If an egg was fertilized, the cranes just ignored it. As a result, scientists used the very popular technique of artificial insemination. They also borrowed sandhill cranes to sit on the eggs and raise the birds when the eggs hatched. In 1975, the first eggs laid without human interference occurred at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PARCO).
After nearly twenty years of breeding whoopers in captivity (1986), biologists in the U.S. and Canada established a program to release the birds into the wild. The purpose of the program -called the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan- was to increase the Canada/Texas flock and establish two other flocks of about fifty birds each. It also called for the release of approximately twenty whooping cranes into Florida every year. Since the plan was put into action, seventy-three out of the one hundred thirty-five birds released have survived in Florida.
All of the photographs used in this site appear in the bibliography with proper credits.