Recently, the National Zoo launched a research and breeding program targeted at helping endangered whooping cranes. The project involved moving 12 cranes into the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, which is the first time the facility—dedicated to breeding and studying different endangered species—has been home to whooping cranes. Hercules is incredibly thankful and excited to have been brought onto this project so we’re proud to be able to take a look at just what happened.
What Was the Goal?
It’s an unfortunate truth that there are less than 900 whooping cranes in the world. This is why the six mated-pairs, 12 cranes in total, are a symbol for something so important. It’s also why creating an environment where they can breed and create a self-sustaining population is absolutely critical. The cranes require human assistance to breed, although the whooping cranes are able to raise their own chicks or have their chicks be cross-fostered by an experienced whooping crane pair. This is a result of the fact that whooping cranes live in monogamous mated pairs and have their own set of courtship rituals that reinforce those relationships. It’s only clear that whooping cranes are such a sensitive part of our ecosystem and that having the proper housing, something Hercules was a part of, is necessary for them to survive and thrive.
How Was Hercules Involved?
For this project, Hercules partnered up with our friends over at Kee Construction, based out of Winchester, Virginia. Together, the two teams worked to construct five 50’ by 150’ rectangular enclosures. These act both as an effective means of containing the whooping cranes while also preventing invasion by any kinds of predators. These five enclosures were then divided into three separate pens, each 50’ by 50’, with double gates throughout so zookeepers can navigate the pens. This is all supported by overhead netting, which is intended to prevent birds from flying away. We’re happy to have been involved in the project and are glad to see our work being utilized in the effort to keep whooping cranes alive and well.
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