The survival of Whooping Cranes depends on the actions of people – people protecting the ecosystems where Whooping Cranes live and people living in harmony with the birds. Over the past five years, thirteen Whooping Crane shootings were documented. Shootings currently account for 19% of known adult mortality in the reintroduced population of Whooping Cranes in the eastern United States. A few of the cranes were killed because they were mistaken for legally-hunted species. But most appear to have been killed in acts of vandalism. Whooping Cranes in the wild still number less than 500 and the population grows slowly. Therefore, any mortalities, particularly of adult breeding birds, can pose a significant threat to the long-term survival of the species.
The International Crane Foundation launched a Whooping Crane outreach campaign in Alabama in the fall of 2015. The goal of this program is to raise awareness about Whooping Cranes to reduce human threats to the species, including wetland loss, shootings, and powerline collisions.
Our awareness campaigns in Alabama, and now also Wisconsin, include K-12 education, citizen science, television and radio public service announcements, billboards, social and traditional media campaigns, presence at gun and hunting shows, hunter education, and appearances at Whooping Crane festivals.
Following the first year of the International Crane Foundation’s outreach campaign in Alabama, we found an 11% increase in awareness of the fact that Whooping Cranes winter in Alabama compared to a pre-campaign survey conducted by Auburn University. Knowledge about Whooping Cranes in the area increased as well, with the number of respondents getting at least one question correct increasing from 69.7% prior to the campaign to 82.3 % after our outreach activities. Building on this progress, the International Crane Foundation will continue to promote increased awareness of Whooping Cranes in Alabama and is launching a new campaign in Indiana in 2017.
Story submitted by Lizzie Condon, Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator for the International Crane Foundation. Click here to learn more about our work in North America.