For the first time in the Louisville Zoo’s 44-year history, we have successfully bred rare Red-crowned cranes. The hatching is not only significant to our Zoo, but it is significant to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Our chick holds the esteemed status of being the first chick hatched this year in an AZA accredited zoo. This is a moment to celebrate on behalf of this beautiful and endangered species.
The Louisville Zoo participates in the AZA’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) to help species that are threatened. According to the AZA, an SSP committee “is responsible for developing a comprehensive population Studbook and a Breeding and Transfer Plan that identifies population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA population.”
The Louisville Zoo was one of only 11 AZA zoos this year to receive a breeding recommendation for the Red-crowned crane. Red-crowned cranes are an endangered species 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 a significant occurrence for this species.
The Red-crowned cranes’ range includes Asia and Japan in East Asia. In some parts of its range, it is known as a symbol of luck, longevity and fidelity. These cranes are a stunning snow white color with black accents on the wings. Found inhabiting marshes with deep water and in croplands, this species is among the largest cranes growing up to 20 lbs. and reaching just over 5 ft. tall. Their large wingspan can measure up to 8 ft. The red area on the top of their heads, which is actually exposed red skin, inspired the name Red-crowned crane.
Both the male and female take part in building the nest and caring for the young, but the male is the one that typically defends the nest while the female nurtures the chicks. These cranes are generally monogamous and stay together throughout the year. The Red-crowned crane is the second rarest crane in the world, with the whooping crane coming in first. You can view both the chick and its parents daily in their exhibit area located near the roadside entrance to Glacier Run and Tiger Tundra.