The whooping crane, rumored to have fallen to a population of 14 in the mid-20th century, has undergone a delicate comeback from the brink of extinction. The next step for this still endangered birds includes a reintroduction program slated for later this month.
The program, established by the International Crane Foundation, will release a flock of birds in a protected pen of southern Louisiana. The pen contains more than an acre of wetlands and is completely surrounded by an electric fence to keep predators away.
Whooping cranes stand about 5 feet tall and have a wingspan of more than 7 feet. The white birds are called whooping cranes because of their loud and distinct call (see video below).
A group of whooping cranes are still carefully led during their migration from Wisconsin to coastal Florida by special aircraft. However, the flock being reintroduced to the southeastern United States is non-migratory and will stay in the enclosure.
The effort to bring back the whooping crane has been especially difficult because of the disappearance of its natural habitat as well as the threat of hunters. Over the past week alone, there have been at least four birds found dead, most likely caused by humans. That’s a very high number considering there are only 520 living in the entire world.
All the birds being released in Louisiana have only dealt with humans wearing large crane suits so they remain scared of humans. This interaction, the hefty fines for killing an endangered species and the protected pens are attempts to keep wild cranes safe from humans.