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организаций при поддержке и помощи правительств и людей, которые верят в
Meine C.D., Archibald G.W. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan the
Cranes. 1996.282 P.
Lishman W.A.,Teens T.L., Duff J.W., Sladen W.J.L., Shire G.G., Goolsby K.M.,
Bezner Kerr W.A., Urbanek R.P. A reintroduction technique for migratory
birds: leading Canada geese and isolation-reared Sandhill cranes with ul-
tralight aircraft // Proc. North Am. Crane Workshop. 1996. No 7. Р. 96-104.
RECOVERY PROGRAM FOR WHOOPING CRANES
Breeding Center for Rare Crane Species Oka State Reserve
Of the 15 species of cranes living on our planet, the Whooping crane Grus americana is the
rarest. In the 1940s, there were only 15 Whooping cranes remaining in North America – the only
continent where these birds are found (Meine, Archibald, 1996). Currently, over 400 Whooping
cranes exist in four populations:
1. Wild flock migrating from central Canada to Texas, US.
2. Captive population established in various wildlife conservation institutions, including
the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Maryland, US), the International Crane
Foundation (Wisconsin, US) and the Calgary Zoo (Canada).
3. Non-migratory captive population in Florida, US.
4. New migratory population taught to migrate from Wisconsin to the west coast of Flor-
ida with the use of ultralight-led migration technique.
The creation of this last population began in 2001 with support from the Canadian and US
governments and a number of NGOs from the two countries. The project was undertaken by the
Canadian non-profit organization Operation Migration in co-operation with the Patuxent Wildlife
Research Center and the International Crane Foundation (ICF).
Operation Migration was founded in Canada by Bill Lishman and his assistant Joe Duff in
1994. The two men were the first pilots to teach birds to migrate. Before starting work with
Whooping cranes, the pilots gained experience working with Canada geese and Sandhill cranes
(Lishman et al, 1996). In their method, chicks are raised in isolation or by humans dressed as
cranes and are taught to follow an ultralight airplane. The ultralight airplane (piloted by a man
dressed as a crane) is gradually perceived as the leader of the flock and leads the young cranes to
their wintering grounds. The birds return to the breeding sites on their own, flying back along the
The Whooping crane eggs come from breeding birds at the Putexent Wildlife Research Cen-
ter and the ICF. For the first 40 to 50 days of their lives, the chicks are raised at the Patuxent Cen-
ter. They live in outdoor, specially equipped enclosures in groups of five to eight and are trained
to follow a large – and very noisy – “parent”.
The young birds are brought by private plane to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. It is
hoped they will establish pairs and raise young here. This is where cranes start flying and the main
training sessions take place – the birds perceive it as their nesting grounds. Migration begins after
two and a half to three months of daily training sessions, excluding bad weather days. Led by an
ultralight aircraft, the young birds fly over 2,000 kilometers across seven states: Wisconsin, Illi-
nois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.
Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is the release point and the final stop of the mi-
gration. A 1.6 ha enclosure has been fenced in to facilitate the birds’ adaptation to local conditions
and to protect them from the Bobcat (Lynx rufus), their primary predator in the wild. At first, feed-
ing trays with commercial food are placed in the enclosure. The cranes are able to leave the enclo-
sure, but they always return for the night. The birds are closely monitored during both the winter-
ing period and migration. All the birds are radio-marked, and every year satellite transponders are
put on three or four chicks. Monitoring of re-introduced Whooping cranes is performed under the
supervision of Richard Urbanek of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
39 birds were raised from 2001 to 2003, 35 of which were successfully introduced into the
wild and returned to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge:
7 cranes in 2001 (two chicks were killed by predators);
16 cranes in 2002 (one bird died after being injured by the ultralight aircraft);
16 cranes in 2003 (one crane with an injured wing was shipped back to the Patuxent Center).
As part of a joint crane conservation program, I had the opportunity to witness and partici-
pate in Operation Migration in 2004. My primary task was to gain the practical skills and theoreti-
cal knowledge necessary for raising cranes. I hope to use this knowledge to establish a similar pro-
ject in Russia to aid the recovery of the declining West Siberian population of Siberian cranes
2004 was a difficult year because the breeding season started late and the chicks suffered
from many health problems (aspergillosis, crooked leg bones, etc.). However, 16 birds were raised
in the Patuxent Center. As they matured, three groups of chicks were shipped to the Necedah Na-
tional Wildlife Refuge on June 15, June 30 and July 15. Spacious enclosures with water ditches
were constructed for each group 2-3 km from each other.
Depending on weather conditions and the age and physical condition of the chicks, the
birds’ training sessions took place during early morning hours. Two weeks before the migration
started, all the chicks were put together for group training sessions.
14 young birds started migrating on October 10, 2004. (Unfortunately one chick died after
transportation from a veterinary clinic, and another bird was removed from the project due to
health problems.) Three pilots, headed by Joe Duff, led the migration in ultralight aircrafts; two
pilots on the scout plane monitored the birds from above, and nine people manned the ground
The ground support team consisted of two groups:
1. Monitoring group – two people drove a specially-equipped van with an antenna, moving
along the roads under the flight path of the ultralight aircraft and birds.
2. Enclosure arranging group – nine people released the birds into the assembled enclo-
sures and transported the enclosures to the next stopover site.
Two temporary enclosures were used in the birds’ resting sites. One of them accommodated
the cranes after they had landed, while the other was re-assembled on the potential site of the next
Only seven out of 14 birds managed to fly the first 32 kilometers of the migration route; the
rest of the cranes returned to the enclosures and were transported to next stopover in transport
crates. Further on the migration was quite successful, with one to three chicks occasionally drop-
ping out, especially during the first half of the migration. The monitoring group radio-tracked the
dropouts and brought the birds to the camping sites. The average flying distance during each leg of
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