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The Whooping Crane

(Grus americana)

Of the 15 species of cranes worldwide, the whooping crane is the most endangered species. Like all cranes worldwide, this species is always under pressure where wetlands are drained and the cranes therefore cannot find a sufficiently large and undisturbed territory for breeding and rearing the young. In addition, the whooping cranes did not have large populations, at least in historical times. In addition, however, whooping cranes are popular because of their magnificent white feathers, which are a popular ornament on the  Beware of the wealthy


American women from east coast cities had been hunted down until there were almost none left. In 1946 the low point was reached with just 15 specimens in only one remaining population. After that, intensive protective measures began – especially in the wintering area in Texas on the Gulf of Mexico – hunting was banned, but the breeding area in northern Canada was only discovered in 1954. Then one began to take 1 egg each time immediately after the egg was laid, because whooping cranes can only raise 1 young at a time anyway. In this way, a gradually increasing population was built up in captivity. Various approaches were used to try to reintroduce whooping cranes into the wild, but these were unsuccessful for more than 2 decades. In the mid-1990s, the idea came up  hatched in captivity

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Raising cranes in isolation from humans and training them to follow microlight aircraft, thus learning to migrate from Wisconsin (the planned location of a new population) and Florida (a new wintering area). It was not until 2001 that young whooping cranes were actually successfully released into the wild by using artificial communication with real whooping crane sounds recorded in the wild (6 different vocalizations with different meanings) instead of human imitation of crane call calls  [1] . Previously, years of preliminary tests with sandhill cranes were unsuccessful because the crane chicks were imprinted on humans by the human crane call imitation. The new released one

The population currently (2019) comprises about 100 individuals, but is not yet self-sustaining and must continue to be fed with isolated young cranes every year. In total, the number of whooping cranes living in the wild is over 600 specimens.


[1]  at the suggestion of Bernhard Wessling, who also provided the recordings and the hardware required for communication, see also "The Call of the Cranes",

This article was written by Dr. Bernhard Weßling specially written for EndangeReX . he is one  the experts on cranes, knows about their threats and their protection. Among other things, he played a major role in saving the last whooping cranes! Only in March of this year did he publish his own book called "Der Ruf der Kraniche" (Link)  published, in which he completely new perspectives in  crane research and protection of these wonderful animals! Many thanks to him, not only for this article, but also for much of it  these great pictures!

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