New Orleans,
16:32 PM

Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center Welcomes Whooping Crane Colt from Dallas Zoo

Four young whooping cranes are sharing an enclosure near New Orleans as they await their release into the wild. These young birds – also known as colts – are at the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center and are part of an ongoing effort to protect this endangered species from extinction. 

Three of the birds were hatched at the Westbank facility, which has 17 other whooping cranes in its breeding program. The fourth colt came to New Orleans from Dallas Zoo. This is the first whooping crane chick from that facility that will be released to the wild.  The young bird was transported to New Orleans via a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) plane  last month, given a thorough physical and a name, and gradually introduced to the other colts that will be released at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation area in southwestern Louisiana. The Dallas colt is now known as Leviathan. The New Orleans-hatched colts are named Sasquatch, Yeti, and Jackalope. 

Since the whooping crane breeding program began, Audubon Nature Institute, the New-Orleans based non-profit that operates a family of ten living museums, attractions, and parks, including Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium and Audubon Insectarium, has released 43 birds to the wild in hopes the birds will repopulate the Louisiana coast. Whooping cranes have historically lived in Louisiana, either as permanent residents or temporary overwintering. Loss of habitat and unregulated hunting led to them disappearing from the state for more than 60 years until conservation partners including Audubon Nature Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries teamed up to reintroduce new birds to the state. 

“Every bird we can return to the wild is one step closer to a self-sustaining population in Louisiana,” said Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center Assistant Curator Richard Dunn. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), and Audubon Nature Institute 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 federal and state agencies and non-profit organizations, leveraging the strengths of all to achieve measurable conservation results and make a significant, historic impact on the future of this species. Through this partnership and with the support of USFWS, Chevron, and other generous supporters, Audubon Nature Institute is committed to the long-term growth and stability of the whooping crane population to save the species from extinction. 

As part of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team, Audubon Nature Institute works collaboratively with the USFWS, International Recovery Team, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Whooping Crane Species Survival Plan, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, International Crane Foundation, White Oak Conservation Foundation, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Dallas Zoo, San Antonio Zoo, Calgary Zoo, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to reintroduce whooping cranes to to achieve a self-sustaining population of wild whooping cranes through reintroduction programs. 

Anyone encountering a whooping crane in Louisiana is advised to observe the bird from a distance and to report the sighting to LDWF Whooping cranes are large-bodied, long legged, white birds with a red head and black facial markings on the side of their faces. Adult birds measure a height of five feet and a wingspan of seven to eight feet, which makes them very distinctive. In flight, whooping cranes display black wing tips, a fully extended neck, and legs that extend well beyond the tail.