19/04/2016
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Whooping with joy

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A major milestone was reached this week in the project to reintroduce Whooping Crane in Louisiana when the first chick to hatch wild in the state for over 75 years was born in Jefferson Davis Parish.

The hatching, the first in Louisiana since 1939, represents another step forward in the program established in February 2011 when the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reintroduced Whooping Cranes back into the state at the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish.

Once abundant in Louisiana in the 1800s, the species dwindled to just two birds in 1945 and had disappeared altogether from the state by 1950. LDWF has partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Serve, US Geological Survey and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to return the species to the state's avifauna. Project funding comes from the LDWF Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge funds, federal funds and private/corporate donations, which are facilitated by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation. Chevron has been a major corporate donor in the program.

"This is something we've been looking forward to and anticipating since the reintroduction began in 2011," said LDWF biologist Sara Zimorski, who leads the Louisiana Whooping Crane project. "One of the major steps in restoring the species is successful reproduction. We've had several pairs nesting the last couple of years but until now no favourable outcomes. It's an exciting time for us and all of our partners who have worked so hard alongside us.

"This couldn't have been done without the assistance of private landowners. The support and cooperation of the many landowners and farmers on whose property the birds spend time is critical to the success of the project."

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The new parents paired earlier this winter and nested and produced eggs for the first time in mid-March. The female is four years old and the male just three.


The pair of Whooping Cranes with their recently hatched youngster in Jefferson Davis Parish (Photo: USFWS)

LDWF Secretary Charlie Melancon said: "I'd like to commend and congratulate our hard-working biologists and partners who have shepherded our program so well. The ultimate goal is to establish a self-sustaining Whooping Crane population in Louisiana so that this beautiful bird can thrive for generations to come. The first chick hatched here is a step in that direction."

Louisiana's reintroduced Whooping Cranes are designated as a non-essential, experimental population (NEP) under the provisions of the US Endangered Species Act. This designation and its implementing regulation were developed to be more compatible with routine human activities in the reintroduction area.

The White Lake WCA location in Vermilion Parish provides temporary shelter for the birds before their release into the wild. The cranes which make up the Louisiana population were raised at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre in Laurel, Maryland, and flown to Louisiana by the Windway Capital Corporation.

Anyone encountering Whooping Crane is advised to observe the bird from a distance and to report their sighting to LDWF. Additional information on LDWF's Whooping Crane project is available at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/whooping-cranes or on the LDWF Whooping Crane Facebook page.

Written by: USFWS