The last wild whooping crane residing in Louisiana was captured in 1950 and relocated to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Whooping cranes in the state had been steadily declining since 1890, when prairie was converted to mechanized agriculture. The unique birds had been living on prairie land until then, but they then gradually vanished. Eventually they diminished in wetland areas also, due to habitat loss and poaching. The last recorded time they bred in the wild on their own in the United States was 1939. The last remaining one in 1950 was taken to Texas where it could be with other wild cranes.
This month in Louisiana a new whooping crane reintroduction project will begin with a small population. “The return of whooping cranes to their home in Louisiana, after an absence of more than a half-century, salutes the values of a state that shelters some of the largest and most important wetlands on the continent,” said George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. The new population in Louisiana will live in an enclosure at first to adapt to their surroundings, and then be released into an area protected by an electric fence. Their caretakers wear special crane suits, which prevent the birds from losing their natural fear of humans. Even in this day cranes must remain afraid of humans to keep a safe distance because once in a while someone shoots and kills them. In January a wild crane was killed in Alabama, by an unknown person.
The ICF has a captive breeding program for the critically endangered birds. They also have been involved in the effort to train young ones born in captivity to fly along their traditional migratory routes to Florida and Texas for the winter seasons. The only wild, self-sustaining population is at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada. There are about 400 wild whooping cranes in three populations left in the world, with about 150 living in captivity.
“Cooperation between the state and federal governments is key if we are to fully revitalize our coast. Restoring wildlife to the Gulf Coast is a key step towards rebuilding and preserving our treasured swamps and marshes and ensuring that they will be protected for future generations,” said a Louisiana congressional representative. (Source: dailyworld.com)