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Determining Causes of Poor Reproduction in Endangered Cranes

The whooping crane is one of the most critically endangered species in north America. The species was virtually eliminated by 1942, leaving just 16 cranes. Despite decades of captive breeding and reintroduction efforts in the United States and Canada, the number of wild whooping cranes remains at only 400. To maintain genetic diversity and supply birds for reintroduction into the wild, every crane must reproduce. Unfortunately, fertility in the captive flocks is poor, and only 65 percent of eggs are fertile. This may be due to low gene diversity or to suboptimal breeding and management. This study will determine the underlying causes of poor reproduction and will develop protocols to boost fertility and chick production, which are necessary to ensure the species’ recovery.

Dr. Nucharin Songsasen, Smithsonian Institution

Co-sponsors:  The Van Sloun Foundation; The Coypu Foundation