Pictured are Houston Zoo Conservation Director Renee Bumpus, International Crane Foundation Co-founder George Archibald and Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator Corrina Holfus, Houston Zoo CEO Lee Ehmke, Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Hentz, International Crane Foundation President & CEO Rich Beilfuss and Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce Public Relations and Special Events Manager Joan Garland.
Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey to the Central Texas Coast last summer, we knew we wanted to do as much as we could to help rebuild this region – for both people and wildlife. Our Texas Program office in Rockport was destroyed by the hurricane, but this loss was minor compared to the tragedies suffered by our neighbors, many who lost their homes, businesses and communities.
Despite ongoing rebuilding efforts, community members in Port Aransas held their annual Whooping Crane Festival in February. Our staff teamed up with colleagues from the Houston and Dallas Zoos to present a $25,000 check to the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce to support the festival and the community.
The Whooping Cranes returned to the Texas coast in the fall, finding a thriving crop of wolf berries, which are an important upland food source for the cranes. The plants were covered by the hurricane’s storm surge and, surprisingly, were protected by damage as the hurricane moved inland. Not so fortunate were the freshwater ponds used by Whooping Cranes and other wildlife. The pumps for the ponds were damaged by the hurricane, and our partners in Texas worked through the winter to repair this equipment.
As the cranes begin their return migration to their Canadian breeding grounds, we are encouraged by the restoration efforts this winter and look forward to the birds’ return in the fall – hopefully with another record number of chicks!