For over eight weeks, the International Crane Foundation (ICF) has broadcast the lives of nine Whooping Crane chicks and their costumed caretakers via our Crane Chick Cam, allowing the public to go behind-the-scenes into the complex world of reintroducing this highly imperiled species in eastern North America.
ICF was thrilled to use web cam technology, made possible through a generous donation from the Antonia Foundation, to offer the public the opportunity to watch endangered Whooping Crane chicks grow an inch a day.
“Viewers were amazed to see how fast the chicks grew. To watch the cranes double their size in the first 11 days after hatching was incredible,” said Kate Fitzwilliams, ICF Marketing/PR Specialist. “The web cam helped people relate to ICF’s work and the dedication of the costumed caretakers.”
Efforts to save Whooping Cranes began after their population dwindled to 15 birds in 1941. Today there are nearly 600 Whooping Cranes, with approximately 445 in the wild, including more than 100 cranes in the reintroduced eastern flock that migrates between Wisconsin and southeastern states.
Make a special gift of any amount – $50, $100, $250, $500 – to help in the continued recovery and protection of Whooping Cranes. Please also consider joining our Whooper Keepers – guardians who contribute $1,000 or more for this vital work. All Whooper Keeper donors are recognized with a plaque in ICF’s celebrated Whooping Crane exhibit at our headquarters in Wisconsin.
In the 1980s, ICF researchers began experimenting with the costume-rearing of cranes. Today researchers caring for young Whooping Cranes at ICF wear full-length crane costumes to hide the human form and use crane hand puppets to feed and interact with the chicks. This costume-rearing technique helps to ensure the chicks imprint on Whooping Cranes – the costume and hand puppet mimic the colors and shape of an adult crane – and will be prepared for life in the wild.
Living in the wild is the goal for seven of the nine chicks joining the Direct Autumn Release (DAR) project, conducted by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP) and led by ICF. The chicks were transferred to Necedah National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in central Wisconsin on July 24th, where they will remain under the watchful eye and supervision of costumed staff from ICF. This fall, they will be transferred and ultimately released at Horicon NWR in central Wisconsin in the company of older cranes. The young DAR cranes learn the migration route south by following these older birds.
Having this year’s chicks start at Necedah NWR and transfer to Horicon NWR for fall release is replicating what was done in 2011 and will help ICF researchers study when the cranes “imprint” on a place and decide where to return the following spring.
ICF is one of five captive breeding centers in the world responsible for breeding and managing the captive flock of Whooping Cranes. The two remaining 2012 Whooping Crane chicks will stay at ICF as important future breeders for the reintroduction program due to their important genetics.
Even though our Crane Chick Cam stars are moving on, we will continue to share updates on the DAR chicks and their caretakers as they journey south this fall on ICF’s Whooping Crane Updates and on Facebook. If you missed our live cam broadcast, view our series of Crane Chick Cam Video Shorts, and stay tuned for further live cam experiences focusing on ICF’s captive flock!
Founded in 1973, ICF is a 501 (c)(3) organization that works worldwide to conserve cranes conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend. ICF provides knowledge, leadership, and inspiration to engage people in resolving threats to cranes and their diverse landscapes. Learn more about our global conservation efforts at www.savingcranes.org.