July 11, 2013

CONTACT: Kyle Shepherd

(Media Cell for press inquiries only: 502-744-5639)



Louisville Zoo Celebrates Significant Hatching

First Red-crowned Crane in Zoo History

For the first time in the Louisville Zoo’s 44-year history, a red-crowned crane was hatched. This hatching is not only significant to the Zoo’s history, but significant to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). This is the first chick hatched for the year in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP).

The Louisville Zoo partners with the AZA in the SSP program to help species that are threatened. Breeding recommendations are made to AZA zoos based on numerous factors. Only 11 breeding recommendations within AZA institutions in North America were made, with the Louisville Zoo being one location.

Red-crowned cranes are an endangered population with only 3,000 in the wild and only 80 in the managed AZA population in North America. With that small representation, a new hatching is important to the AZA and to the species.

The mission of an AZA SSP Program is to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population within AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, certified related facilities and approved non-member participants. Breeding plans also work to improve the genetic diversity of managed animal populations.

The Louisville Zoo’s Curator of birds, Gary Michael said the Zoo has been trying to produce an offspring for five years. “This is a special chick. Cranes can be picky about partners and be incompatible showing little interest in one another. It is a big deal when cranes are compatible, when they can produce a fertile egg and when they produce a chick.”

Sometime in the fall Michael and his staff will draw blood to determine the sex of the rare bird.

The new red-crowned crane baby and parents are on exhibit daily near the roadside entrance to Glacier Run and Tiger Tundra.

About red-crowned cranes:

Red-crowned cranes are from Asia including Japan. They can be found inhabiting marshes with deep water and in croplands. They can grow up to 20 lbs. and reach just over 5’. Their wing span can be up to 8’. Called the red-crowned crane due to the red area on the top of their heads which is actually exposed red skin, both the male and female take part in building the nest and caring for the young. The male generally defends the nest while the female nurtures the chicks. These cranes are generally monogamous and stay together throughout the year. The red-crowed crane is the second rarest crane in the world, with the whooping crane being the rarest. 


The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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