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Endangered whooping crane chick hatches at Smithsonian

Whoop! Whoop! A rare crane was born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute on May 26.

FRONT ROYAL, Va. — The Smithsonian is celebrating after an endangered whooping crane was born at its conservation center in Front Royal, Virginia in late May.

For the first time, one of the most endangered species of crane in the world hatched on May 26 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and is thriving. 

The bird team at SCBI took the then-egg under their wing on May 18, after the International Crane Foundation and Necedah National Wildlife Refuge staff in Wisconsin found the egg abandoned in a wild nest.

A 16-year-old female named Tehya and a 25-year-old male named Goliath were chosen as surrogate parents to the colt. The parents have been protective and attentive to the colt's needs as it grows, according to the bird team.

As the family bonds, staff is monitoring the colt closely who they say appears to be healthy, alert and curious about its surroundings. The sex of the bird won't be known until its first veterinary exam will be at five weeks old when staff takes a DNA sample. 

Habitat destruction, hunting, poaching, climate change, natural disasters and oil spills have contributed to the decline of whooping cranes. In 1941, approximately 22 whooping cranes remained in the wild, according to a news release. Today, around 700 whooping cranes live in the wild and 140 are under human care. 

“Since there are so few whooping cranes left, it’s critical that every crane has an opportunity to breed and help create a self-sustaining population in zoos and breeding centers, like SCBI,” William Pitt, deputy director of SCBI, said previously upon opening the facility. “We have the space for multiple breeding pairs of cranes and their chicks, and we are experts in breeding cranes. We hope to have the same success breeding them as we have had with white-naped cranes, red-crowned cranes and hooded cranes.”

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