During the past three decades, Terry and Mary Kohler have been lead supporters of the International Crane Foundation. On September 20, 2016, Terry peacefully passed away at their home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He was a pillar in conservation.
In their corporate jet for many years, the Kohlers transported to Wisconsin hatching eggs of Trumpeter Swans from Alaska and of Whooping Crane eggs from northern Canada for hatching, rearing and releases into Wisconsin. The swans have been outstandingly successful and now number over 1,000 in our state. There are about 100 Whooping Cranes, and we are hopeful that the population will soon be self-sustaining.
In addition, the Kohlers flew many cranes and eggs between the International Crane Foundation and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, and from these captive breeding centers to release sites in Florida, Idaho, Louisiana and Wisconsin. They also supported hundreds of hours of flights to monitor both Sandhill and Whooping Cranes east of the Mississippi. More recently, they have become the major supporter of the International Crane Foundation’s work in Texas, where our mission is the welfare of the natural population of Whooping Cranes on their wintering grounds.
In 1998, my wife Kyoko and I joined the Kohlers to fly around the world to deliver hatching eggs of Siberian Cranes from the International Crane Foundation to a release project in Russia. We also visited the three areas of Russia where Siberian Cranes nested. The Kohler flight was apparently the first passage of a private American aircraft across Russia.
Back in the 1980s when I first met Terry, he showed me a video that had impressed him. It was called ‘Com-on Geese’ and featured Canadian entrepreneur, Bill Lishman, leading a flock of Canada Geese behind his ultra-light aircraft. “Why not do that with Whooping Cranes?”, urged Terry. I brought the idea to the Whooping Crane Recovery Team, and through our colleagues at Operation Migration history has been made.
Terry loved flying. Now when I see Trumpeter Swans and Whooping Cranes gracing the skies of Wisconsin, I’ll feel Terry’s spirit through them. The International Crane Foundation will forever be thankful for the enthusiasm, encouragement and generosity of Terry and Mary Kohler.
Story submitted by Dr. George Archibald, International Crane Foundation Co-founder and Senior Conservationist.