The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center’s ability to bring back the world’s rarest crane species. Now, over a year since the pandemic began, Audubon is making a major comeback raising cranes with seven whooping crane chicks currently being reared at its Species Survival Center.
Five abandoned eggs originated from the eastern migratory population in Wisconsin, one egg from the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin, and one egg was the result of artificial insemination at the Species Survival Center.
Six of the chicks are being costume-reared by Audubon staff, while one chick is being parent-reared by its mother and “stepfather,” as this chick was produced via artificial insemination. Audubon staff costume-rear chicks by dressing up as whooping cranes, keeping their true human appearance cloaked in order to ensure they do not desensitize the chicks to humans. During costume-rearing the chicks are taught how to be whooping cranes by using a whooping crane head puppet to demonstrate searching for food, looking out for predators, etc.