The Latest VOA Special English
Archive of VOA Special English
Whooping Crane Recovery Project

2002-5-16

This is the VOA SpecialEnglish ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Scientists are trying to create the first migrating group ofwhooping cranes in the eastern United States in more thanone-hundred years. Migrating birds fly long distances to differentareas of the country when the seasons change. For example, they flyfrom cold areas to warm areas to spend the winter.

The migration project is designedto increase the number of whooping cranes. These large, beautifulbirds are in danger of disappearing.

Cranes are one of the most threatened families of birds in theworld. Whooping cranes are the rarest of all cranes. There are fewerthan three-hundred-fifty birds left in the world.

Whooping cranes do not producemany baby birds. That makes it difficult to replace birds killed byhunting, natural events, animals, accidents and disease. Scientistshope the migration effort will lead to increased reproduction amongwhooping cranes.

In October, researchers trained eight young whooping cranes tofly behind small airplanes. The planes led the endangered birds ontheir first migration. They flew from the middle western state ofWisconsin to a protected area in the southeastern state of Floridafor the winter.

The cranes and planes arrived inFlorida in December, following a fifty-day flight. They flew acrossseven states. One crane died during the trip. Two others were killedby animals in Florida.

The five remaining whooping cranesreturned to the Necedah (neh-SEE-dah) National Wildlife Refuge inWisconsin on their own last month. The return north was the cranes'first unassisted migration. They were guided only by their naturalabilities.

Scientists from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service andthe International Crane Foundation have been studying the birdssince they began their northern migration. They say their flightback to Wisconsin was quicker than anyone had expected. It took tendays and covered almost two-thousand kilometers.

Scientists had known that existing wild whooping cranes were ableto fly great distances during migration. But they did not know ifthey could teach young whooping cranes to migrate.

The scientists will observe these whooping cranes during thesummer and as they migrate back south in the fall. Scientists hopethe effort will teach them more about how to save the endangeredbirds.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written byCynthia Kirk.