On November 10, 2021, four juvenile whooping cranes were released into White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area as part of an ongoing effort to protect this endangered species from extinction. After spending a few weeks getting used to their new environment, the cranes will join more than 75 whooping cranes that are part of a population being monitored by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
The four chicks being released were hatched and reared at Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center in New Orleans. This is the fourth year Audubon has released cranes in the Louisiana wild; before that, cranes bred in human care were transported and released into a northern flock. This year's chicks were named after "natural phenomena" including Blizzard, Hurricane, Lava, and Aurora.
"These four chicks represent a major comeback for our program," said Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center Assistant Curator Richard Dunn. "We are so pleased to have bounced back after not being able to produce eggs or release cranes during the peak of the pandemic."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Audubon 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 Chevron, Hancock Whitney, USFWS, and other generous supporters, Audubon is committed to the long-term growth and stability of the whooping crane population to save the species from extinction.
"At Chevron, we recognize the importance of protecting ecological diversity – the rich variety of wildlife on Earth, its ecosystems and species, and the ecological processes that support them," said Public Affairs Manager for Chevron's Gulf of Mexico Business Unit Leah Brown. "We're proud to continue our long-standing collaboration on whooping crane restoration and repopulation. Through awareness programs, educational efforts and volunteerism, we're working to make sure this endangered species is thriving for generations to come."
As part of the Whooping Crane Recovery Team, Audubon 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 achieve a self-sustaining population of wild whooping cranes through reintroduction programs.
"We continue to see progress in our whooping crane population project despite the setback from the pandemic,'' said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. "Adding four more cranes, coupled with the cranes hatched in the wild last spring, is a positive step in our effort. We thank Chevron and our other corporate partners, along with Audubon, in our effort to restore this special bird to Louisiana.''
Anyone encountering a whooping crane in Louisiana is advised to observe the bird from a distance and to report the sighting to LDWF https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/page/report-a-whooping-crane-sighting-or-violation. Whooping cranes are large-bodied, long legged, white birds with a red head and black facial markings on the side of their faces. 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.