New Endangered Species at the Zoo

The NEW Zoo & Adventure Park is now home to another endangered species! McMillan and Hunnicut, a pair of whooping cranes, are settling into their wetland habitat in the Northern Trail section of the Zoo.

We are proud to join the AZA SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction) program for this species. There are currently only 826 whooping cranes in the world. McMillan and Hunnicut are among the 159 of these birds living under human care, as part of the effort to save the species. You can learn more about AZA SAFE and the species and habitats that we are working to conserve at: https://www.aza.org/aza-safe

Due to loss of wetland and prairie habitat and hunting pressures, there were fewer than 21 whooping cranes left by the mid 1940’s. In 1986, the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan was established. Captive breeding and reintroduction efforts, combined with habitat protection, have resulted in a slow and steady increase to the wild population. Wisconsin is now one of the few places in the world where it is possible to see whooping cranes in the wild.

Five year old female crane McMillan (aka Millie) was hatched and costume-reared (her caretakers wore crane costumes to keep her from imprinting on humans) at a breeding center, and was one of the last young cranes who learned migration routes by following an ultralight. Now that there are more birds living in the wild, human-raised birds can rely on wild adult whooping cranes to show them the way.  Although she mastered migration, found a companion, and even hatched a chick in the McMillan Marsh Wildlife Area in Central Wisconsin, Millie’s life in the wild ended abruptly last year. The chick disappeared, her companion was killed, and Millie suffered a broken wing during a predator attack. Her injury ended her ability to survive in the wild. Fortunately, she has adjusted well to her new life. The recent arrival of seven-year-old male Hunnicut (aka Hunni), who was born and raised at the International Crane Foundation, seems to have increased her level of confidence and the two birds are getting along well. You may be able to witness the pair engage in unison calling and other pair bonding activities as they get to know each other in their home adjacent to the moose habitat at the Zoo.

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