U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Canadian Wildlife Service
U.S. Geological Survey
The Crane Trust
The Nature Conservancy
Platte River Recovery Implementation Program
National Audubon Society
International Crane Foundation
Wood Buffalo National Park
The Gulf Coast Bird Observatory is fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in one of the most critical avian conservation projects in North America, Whooping Crane Recovery. While it is a new program for us, it has been a high priority conservation issue in North America and Texas for many years because this very endangered bird spends its winter on the Texas coast. Concerns for the Whooping Crane’s survival began in the 1940’s when 16 individuals constituted the entire known population of the species. In 1967 it was listed as endangered and efforts to protect the remaining wild population have continued to date with one of the few International and joint US-Canada Whooping Crane Recovery team and Recovery Plans. While the population is steadily increasing (we expect about 300 birds in the winter of 2011-2012), there are still many threats to its survival. The most pressing issues are on the wintering grounds in Texas. Salt marsh habitat available for the increasing population is limited and unprotected which may limit the expansion of the increasing population in the near future. Freshwater from rivers that provides critical inflows to Gulf of Mexico estuaries that support the Whooping Crane’s marine food base are being over-utilized and are becoming critically important.
Dr. Felipe Chavez-Ramirez has recently joined the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory as Director for Conservation Programs. He has a long history of involvement in Whooping Crane research and conservation activities beginning in 1993 with his PhD thesis work at Texas A & M University. Over the past few years, he has been involved in the development and implementation of several Whooping Crane conservation planning activities and research projects such as the Whooping Crane Conservation Action Plan. This plan organized in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy and The Audubon Society is intended to provide a road map for conservation of Whooping Crane habitats and abate threats to its survival throughout its entire range.
As a member of the US-Canada International Whooping Crane Recovery Team we participate in all planning and implementation activities related to Whooping Crane reintroductions, research and conservation planning in North America. As part of our activities with Whooping Cranes we also participate in a multi-agency and bi-national project focused on fitting GPS telemetry devices to Whooping Cranes to determine migratory behavior and identify the locations and causes of mortality events during migration. Working with other partner organizations and agencies we are supporting initiatives to map and develop conservation plans for potential wintering habitat along the Texas coast.
GCBO is a proud Bi-National Partner working to track the migrations of Whooping Cranes via the Telemetry Study. Follow our progress by reading this just released report.