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Woodland Park Zoo Celebrates Crane Hatchlings

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For the first time in Woodland Park Zoo’s 119-year history, a pair of White-naped Cranes successfully hatched. The chicks emerged July 9 and 10 and are the first offspring for 8-year-old mom, Laura, and 9-year-old dad, Cal. The sex of the unnamed chicks has not yet been determined.

The Seattle, WA zoo has had White-naped Cranes for around 30 years, but none successfully produced offspring until now. The new parents have been at the zoo for five years.

“This is such a significant hatching and a symbol of hope for the vulnerable species,” said Mark Myers, bird curator at Woodland Park Zoo. “The successful breeding and hatching are attributed to the bond between the parents, the quality of their habitat, and the expert day-to-day care and dedication provided by our animal keepers. We’re very proud of our team and our new parents.”

According to Myers, cranes are monogamous and can be very picky when choosing a mate: “Even the slightest incompatibility between two birds can prevent successful breeding; they will only breed once a strong pair bond is formed between them. Even then, it can take several years to solidify that bond,” explained Myers.

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Photo Credits: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Parents Cal and Laura were paired on a recommendation from the White-naped Crane Species Survival Plan, a cooperative conservation-breeding program to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of White-naped Cranes in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. There are currently fewer than 75 White-naped Cranes in the program. This successful hatching has augmented the numbers of this long-lived species.

Cranes are renowned for their spectacular and elaborate courtship dances. They gracefully circle each other while leaping and calling, head bobbing toward one another and bowing with spread wings. These dances continue throughout the year as the birds continually reinforce their pair bonds.

Given the delicate nature of requisites to form a productive bond between birds, coupled with the continued loss of suitable habitat throughout the world, cranes are one of the most endangered families of birds.

White-naped Cranes—which can grow to more than 4 feet tall—are native to northern Mongolia, southern Siberia, Korea, Japan and central China. It is the only crane species with pinkish legs and a dark gray and white striped neck. The back of its neck, including the top of the head and the nape, are white and its eyes are surrounded by a distinctive red face patch.

Woodland Park Zoo proudly works with Muraviovka Park in Russia’s Amur River Basin and the International Crane Foundation as Conservation Partners. These groups protect critical habitats for several species of threatened or endangered cranes, including the White-naped crane.

Woodland Park Zoo participates in 111 Species Survival Plans, overseen by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, and genetics, these plans also involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects.

Support these projects and the zoo’s other conservation programs by going to www.zoo.org/conservation or by visiting the zoo’s White-naped Crane chicks.

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