By Bryant Tarr, Curator of Birds
In late April, two staff from the Denver Zoo visited ICF to receive hands-on training in breeding techniques that we use with our cranes. The staff returned to Denver with new skills that they can hopefully use next season to produce fertile crane eggs (their birds are already responding well to the techniques learned here at ICF) AND with two fertile Hooded Crane eggs from ICF for their collection. The eggs were produced by Niles (our male Hooded Crane on exhibit) and Belmont (a female Hooded Crane who lives off-exhibit in Crane City) through artificial insemination. The first egg transferred to Denver hatched on May 2nd, while the second egg had apparent development issues and did not survive to hatch.
This effort represents part of ICF’s involvement with the Association of Zoos & Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan for Hooded Cranes. Hooded Crane populations in captivity are not currently reproducing at a rate that will sustain genetic diversity over the long-term, so some extra attention is being paid to the species. In addition to the exchange with the Denver Zoo this spring, ICF sent two Hooded Cranes to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia in 2011 to join other Hooded Cranes there in a concerted effort to breed the species (read our update on this transfer).
The next phase of this effort is taking place at ICF in Crane City. On May 4th an additional fertile egg from Niles and Belmont hatched (upper right)! Although Belmont is housed alone (she likes people more than she likes Hooded Cranes), we had her incubate dummy (fake) eggs full-term and replaced these with her real egg when it piped (first breaks through the shell). Belmont and her chick are doing well (left)!