In December 2020, our aviculture staff completed their first animal transfer since the beginning of Covid-19. Discussions began at the beginning of the year to identify a new home for Slidell, a 19-year-old Grey Crowned Crane that many visitors to our headquarters have come to love over the years.
As a human-imprinted bird – she bonded with people rather than other cranes when she was young – Slidell enjoyed interacting with the public. However, we were unable to pair her with our male Grey Crowned Crane Houdini successfully. Last year we brought in a new female, Tina, to pair with Houdini. This new pairing is doing very well, and they will be on exhibit together when we open in May 2021.
We knew Slidell was a special bird who could serve as an amazing ambassador for her wild counterparts. So, we worked with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for Grey Crowned Cranes to identify a new exhibit option for her. It turns out we identified a new home less than 200 miles away at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago, Illinois. Due to both facilities’ Covid-19 safety and travel restrictions, the transfer took almost a year to complete.
A year ago, we planned for the Brookfield Zoo to send two staff up to the International Crane Foundation for a day to shadow our team and learn more about our crane husbandry protocols and management. This in-person exchange was not an option with Covid-19 and instead took place through sharing of documents and electronic questions and answers. We made arrangements for the Brookfield Zoo and our staff to meet halfway at a Petro station to complete a contact-free transfer.
Slidell received a full health exam before her transfer, which she passed with flying colors. We made sure to give her a special going away party, crane style, with her farewell enrichment cake loaded with her favorite treats hidden in paper towel tubes.
Brookfield Zoo plans to exhibit Slidell in their Habitat Africa! The Savanna exhibit. She will share space with a few new species, including nyala and red river hogs. While we are sad to see her leave us, we know she is in great hands and will have the opportunity to encourage a whole new audience to become Craniacs!
Story submitted by Kim Boardman, Curator of Birds. Click here to learn more about our Global Headquarters.