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The Cranes

Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan

Captive Propagation and Reintroduction


JPG-ICF, Baraboo, Wisconsin

Cranes, because of their great size and beauty, have long been maintained and propagated in captivity (Mirande 1991). Due largely to rising conservation concerns, research into breeding techniques has intensified since the 1960s. Captive management techniques have now been summarized in a crane propagation and husbandry manual (Ellis et al., in press). With few exceptions—the West African Crowned Crane, Wattled Crane, and Hooded Cranes—all the species can be reliably bred. Based on this success, the emphasis in captive programs has shifted from the management of individual birds to the management of healthy populations to meet conservation needs.

Under the auspices of the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), a series of workshops has been held to assess available information and develops strategies and priorities for the conservation of wild and captive cranes. CBSG has played a major role in linking ex situ propagation efforts with in situ conservation programs. At a Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) workshop in August 1992 it was determined that for 26 of 30 crane taxa, maintenance of a captive population was a necessary component of an overall strategy for ensuring viable populations in the wild (Mirande et al. in press a) (see individual species accounts for further details). The protection of wild populations received highest priority, with captive populations supporting field conservation efforts. For the threatened taxa, captive and wild populations should be managed with exchange of birds and genetic material occurring as needed and feasible. Types of captive management programs and time frames for initiation were identified (see species accounts).

The appropriate integration of captive propagation techniques (e.g., double clutching or single egg removal, translocation, rearing at release sites, hatching of eggs collected from the wild, releasing young, supplemental feeding) and field management techniques is a critical need that continues to challenge the creativity and ingenuity of crane conservationists. In addition to providing birds for release and reintroduction, captive programs contribute to field efforts through research (e.g., on the effectiveness of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) vaccine, genetic relationships among wild populations, development of ethograms, effects of satellite transmitters on health and behavior); education (e.g., technical training programs, films, community outreach, lectures, curriculum packets, exhibits); and financial support (e.g., for surveys, releases, health care, facility construction, and technical assistance).

JPG-Alteration of photoperiod to induce reproduction

In 1993 a Global Captive Action Recommendations (GCAR) workshop was held to design strategies for implementing and refining the CAMP recommendations (Mirande et al., in press a). The workshop document summarizes information on current global and regional captive population sizes; the degree of difficulty in maintaining and breeding the taxon in captivity; and the status of studbook development, management programs, and release programs. At the workshop, participants discussed a wide range of topics, including approaches to genetic and demographic management; research priorities; studbook and management program needs; potential release projects; and methods for coordinating global and regional captive management programs. Global targets for captive populations were established based on conservation priorities.

At the GCAR workshop, a Global Captive Crane Working Group was established. Through this working group, captive crane advisory groups (often called Taxon Advisory Groups, or TAGs) have been established for six regions (Table 1.5). These programs develop regional plans for implementing the GCAR, which individual institutions then apply to their flocks. They set regional target populations, define genetic and demographic objectives, allocate limited space among species, and coordinate work with other TAGs and with field projects.

Individual species management programs or studbooks have been established for twelve species of cranes (Table 1.5). Global Animal Survival Plan (GASP) workshops have been held for Red-crowned Cranes (Mirande et al. in prep. b) and Siberian Cranes (Mirande et al. in prep. c). The Red-crowned Crane is an example of a species that can be managed as regional subpopulations with periodic exchange of individuals. By contrast, the low numbers of Siberian Cranes in captivity make it necessary to manage the species through international collaboration. A GASP for Wattled Crane is under development, and GASPs have been recommended for Black-necked, Hooded, and White-naped Cranes. Other species are currently managed on a regional level. With rare exceptions, wild eggs or birds no longer need to be collected for captive propagation programs. Adequate numbers of wild lineages (>20) are represented in the captive populations and with effective management adequate genetic diversity can be maintained. Wild stock should only be collected if founding lines are lost (i.e., die out).

Table 1.5 Crane studbook keepers and program coordinators1
Regional Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) Coordinators for Cranes
     Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) Captive Crane Working Group:
Claire Mirande, International Crane Foundation (Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA)
North America:
Claire Mirande, International Crane Foundation (USA)
Europe:
Gunter Schleussner, Wilhelma Zoological Garden (Stuttgart, Germany)
U.K. and Ireland:
Nick Lindsay, Whipsnade Zoo (Dunstable, Bedfordshire, England)
David Coles, Child Beale Trust (Berkshire, England)
Africa:
Alan Abrey, Umgemi River Bird Park (Durban, South Africa)
China:
To be determined
Japan:
Kazuaki Nippashi, Saitama Children's Zoo (Saitama, Japan)
White-naped Crane
International Studbook Keeper and SSP (North America) Coordinator:
Christine Sheppard, Wildlife Conservation Society (New York, USA)
Global Animal Survival Plan (GASP) Coordinator:
To be determined
EEP (Europe) Coordinator:
Peter Muhling, Nuremberg Zoo (Germany)
JMSC (U.K.) Studbook Keeper:
Nick Lindsay, Whipsnade Zoo (England)
SSCJ (Japan) Coordinator, Studbook Keeper and Regional Coordinator:
Kazuaki Nippashi, Saitama Children's Zoo (Japan)
Wattled Crane
GASP Coordinators
Fred Beall, Franklin Zoological Park (Boston, USA)
Lindy Rodwell, South African Crane Foundation (Parkview, South Africa)
International Studbook Keeper and SSP Coordinator:
Fred Beall, Franklin Zoological Park (USA)
JMSC Studbook Keeper and JMSP Coordinator:
Nick Lindsay, Whipsnade Zoo (England)
SSCJ Studbook Keeper and Coordinator:
Masanori Kobyashi, Chiba Zoo (Chiba, Japan)
Hooded Crane
International Studbook Keeper and SSP Coordinator:
Bruce Bohmke, Phoenix Zoo (USA)
GASP Coordinator:
To be determined
JMSC Studbook Keeper and JMSP Coordinator:
Nick Lindsay, Whipsnade Zoo (England)
SSCJ Studbook Keeper & Regional Coordinator:
Takeshi Sakoh, Hirakawa Zoo (Kagoshima, Japan)
Siberian Crane
International Studbook Keeper and International GASP Coordinator:
Vladimir Panchenko, Oka State Nature Reserve (Lakash, Russia)
Chinese Studbook Keeper:
Zhao Qingguo, Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (Beijing, China)
Red-crowned Crane
GASP Coordinator:
To be determined
International Studbook Keeper and SSCJ Coordinator:
Teruyuki Komiya, Tokyo Ueno Zoo (Japan)
North American Studbook Keeper:
Scott Swengel, International Crane Foundation (USA)
SSP Coordinator:
Claire Mirande, International Crane Foundation (USA)
Chinese Studbook Keeper and Regional Coordinator:
Liu Dajun, Shenyang Zoo (Shenyang, China)
EEP Coordinator and Regional Studbook Keeper:
Robert Belterman, Rotterdam Zoo (Netherlands)
JMSC Studbook Keeper and JMSP Coordinator:
Nick Lindsay, Whipsnade Zoo (England)
Blue Crane
International Studbook Keeper:
Ferdi Schoeman, National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (Pretoria, South Africa)
North American Studbook Keeper:
To be determined
JMSC Studbook Keeper and JMSP Coordinator:
Nick Lindsay, Whipsnade Zoo (England)
West African Crowned Crane
North American Studbook Keeper:
Susan Haeffner, Denver Zoo (USA)
JMSC Studbook Keeper:
Roger Wilkinson, Chester Zoo (Cheshire, England)
Black-necked Crane
GASP Coordinator:
To be determined
Chinese Studbook Keeper:
Zhao Qingguo, Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (Beijing, China)
Whooping Crane
Studbook Keeper and Genetic Advisor to Recovery Team
Claire Mirande, International Crane Foundation (USA)
Mississippi Sandhill Crane
Studbook Keeper
Joanna Taylor, Patuxent Environmental Science Center (USA)
Brolga Crane
Coordinator, Australian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums
Elizabeth Romer, Currumbin Sanctuary (Palm Beach, Queensland, Australia)
Eastern Sarus Crane
International Studbook Keeper
Jumpon Kotchasit, Khao Kheow Open Zoo (Chenburi, Thailand)

Captive breeding centers have also organized intensive, species-oriented workshops aimed at ensuring a high probability of survival and adaptive evolution of threatened cranes in the wild. Population and Habitat Viability Analysis (PHVA) workshops have been conducted for the Whooping (Mirande et al. 1993) and Mississippi Sandhill Crane (Seal and Hereford 1993). Preliminary workshops have been held for Red-crowned (Mirande et al. in prep. a), Siberian (Mirande in prep. d), and Wattled Cranes (U. Seal pers. comm.). Follow-up workshops involving broader participation and conducted in the range countries are recommended. A workshop for Eastern Sarus Cranes is scheduled for 1996 in Thailand (M. Wellington pers. comm.). At PHVA workshops, diverse experts collaborate to conduct detailed examinations of the life history, status, and threats to a given taxon. Computer models are used to help assess a population’s vulnerability to extinction under current and potential scenarios. The effects of alternate management approaches are evaluated. Through small interactive working groups, conservation strategies are examined and refined. Although these workshops are primarily focused on wild populations, captive populations and releases can also be incorporated into the models.

Captive propagation centers have worked closely with field researchers to develop release techniques. Active reintroduction programs currently exist for the Whooping, Siberian, Mississippi Sandhill, Red-crowned, White-naped, and Wattled Cranes. Sandhill Cranes have been used as surrogates to develop release methods for endangered cranes (Horwich 1989, Horwich et al. 1992, Nagendran 1995). Releases are being considered for the West African Crowned Crane, the Atlas population of Demoiselle Crane, and the Eastern Sarus Crane (see individual species accounts for further discussions).

JPG--Costume-rearing techniques

Releases to date have met with mixed success. Greater Sandhill Cranes have been released onto breeding grounds with conspecifics and have successfully migrated (85%) and bred (Horwich 1989, Urbanek and Bookhout 1991). Migratory releases have also been conducted for Siberian (Sorokin 1994), Red-crowned (Andronova and Andronov 1994, Xu J. et al. 1991) and White-naped Cranes (Andronova and Andronov 1994). One of the main obstacles to successful releases has been the difficulty of teaching migration routes to young birds, especially when wild conspecifics are not available to do so. Techniques to teach migration routes are now under investigation. These include the use of guide birds (Drewien et al. 1995a, Urbanek and Bookhout 1993, Sorokin 1994); ultralight aircraft (K. Clegg pers. comm., W. Lishman pers. comm.); and trucking birds between resting areas (D. Ellis pers. comm.). Attempts to release birds on their wintering grounds have failed to date (Nagendran 1991, A. Brar pers. comm.). Non-migratory releases have been conducted for the Mississippi Sandhill Crane (Ellis et al. 1991, Seal and Hereford 1993) and the Whooping Crane (Lewis and Finger 1993). The released birds are able to forage effectively and show signs of normal pair formation. However, problems have been encountered with disease and poor reproductive success among the Mississippi Sandhills and with high bobcat predation on the Whooping Cranes. Since these release programs began, progress has been made in overcoming these problems.

The methods used in raising birds plays a key role in their success after being released. For Sandhill and Whooping Cranes, the highest survival rates have been observed among offspring that have been raised by costumed humans and released as juveniles. Parent-reared birds have survived at lower rates and do better when mixed with costume-reared chicks. Captive-reared Red-crowned and White-naped Cranes have been released into marshes near breeding centers. These birds have bred with one another or with wild birds. The semi-wild birds and their young are brought into captivity for the winter. In the spring the families are released into the marshes, and the young generally join the wild birds and migrate their second fall (Andronova and Andronov 1994, Xu J. et al. 1991).

Cross-fostering eggs into the wild nests of a more abundant species has been attempted with Whooping Cranes (Ellis et al. 1992) and Siberian Cranes (Sorokin 1994). In these cases, the young generally survive and migrate, but improper sexual imprinting on the surrogate parent species has been observed (Lewis 1995b, Mahan and Simmers 1992). This technique is being tested on Siberian Cranes in the hope that the chicks cross-fostered by Eurasians can serve as guide birds for Siberians reared using other methods.

Releases and reintroductions should only be undertaken as part of an approved conservation plan, and should follow the guidelines established by the IUCN/SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group2. Releases should not be conducted as a response to surpluses in captive populations. It is especially important that proper precautions be taken to guard against the introduction of diseases into wild populations (Langenberg and Dein 1992).

1As of October 1995. For addresses and phone numbers of these individuals and institutions, contact Claire Mirande at the International Crane Foundation, E-11376 Shady Lane Road, Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA. T: 608-356-9462. F: 608-356-9465.

2The IUCN guidelines and further information on reintroductin programs is available through the IUCN Reintroduction Specialist Group (Chair, Dr. Mark Stanley-Price, African Wildlife Foundation, P.O. Box 48177, Nairobi, Kenya).


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