A group of eleven juvenile whooping cranes were transferred to the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Southwest Louisiana as part of an ongoing effort to protect the species from extinction. After spending a few weeks getting used to their new environment, the juvenile cranes will join 69 whooping cranes that are part of a population being monitored by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).
Four of the chicks being released were hatched and reared at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans, La. Those four chicks were placed into a cohort to socialize together. Seven costumed-reared birds from the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisc., joined them in early October to form one large cohort. This is the third year Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans, La., has reared cranes for release into the wild in Louisiana.
LDWF and Audubon have been longtime leaders in whooping crane conservation and are continuing to expand their partnership with the goal of developing a self-sustaining Louisiana whooping crane population. This partnership is an example of the importance of collaboration between state agencies and non-profit organizations, leveraging the strengths of both to achieve measurable conservation results and make a significant, historic impact on the future of this species. With the support of Chevron, LDWF and Audubon are committed to the long-term growth and stability of the whooping crane population to save the species from extinction.
“We have worked hard and been able to accomplish great things with our whooping cranes,” said Assistant Curator at Species Survival Center, Richard Dunn. “The success we have had with them would not have been possible without the dedication of our committed partners.”
The addition of these cranes increases the flock to 79 whooping cranes living in the wild in Louisiana. The support of partners such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, International Crane Foundation, Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, and generous donors, have allowed LDWF and Audubon to expand efforts in Louisiana.
The Louisiana wild flock was initiated in 2011 when 10 whooping cranes from the U. S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland were released to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish. This marked a significant conservation milestone with the first wild whooping cranes in Louisiana since 1950. In 2016, the first chicks hatched in the Louisiana wild since 1939—a significant sign of recovery for the species.
In early 2017, Audubon was asked to significantly increase the number of crane chicks raised at the rearing facility to supplement the North American migratory populations as well as the Louisiana non-migratory whooping crane population. As one of only six whooping crane breeding facilities in the U.S., support of project partners is vital to the long-term success of the whooping crane population in Louisiana.
Photo Credit: © Audubon Nature Institute