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Whooping Crane (Grus americana)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 152511747

Keeping Whooping Cranes Safe is a multi-state, multi-agency initiative to prevent Whooping Crane mortality through community outreach programs.

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 152511747) - Whooping Crane - Awarded $12,500 on January 12, 2016

Keeping Whooping Cranes Safe is a multi-state, multi-agency initiative to prevent Whooping Crane mortality through community outreach programs.

Whooping Crane conservation

The International Crane Foundation protects cranes and their habitats around the world. The rarest of all crane species, the Whooping Crane, faces many conservation challenges. Although the Whooping Crane population has steadily increased from about 20 birds in the 1940s and 50s to about 400 birds in the wild today, humans continue to pose a threat to these beautiful birds. Historically, unregulated hunting was a major factor contributing to the near extinction of the Whooping Crane. Before the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1941, Whooping Cranes were not federally protected and unregulated hunting, along with substantial habitat loss, nearly wiped this species off the planet. Although Whooping Cranes are now protected by federal and state laws, Whooping Crane shootings are still occurring at an increasing and alarming rate. Since Whooping Cranes were listed as an endangered species in 1967, there have been 26 confirmed shooting cases, killing a total of 35 Whooping Cranes. These are only confirmed cases and it is very likely that the number of shootings are underestimated. Gunshot accounts for 19% of known mortality in the reintroduced eastern migratory population of Whooping Cranes.

Perpetrators of shooting crimes often state that they did not know that they were killing a Whooping Crane. Initial surveys in a pilot community in Alabama show that the majority of people do not know that Whooping Cranes live in the area and they do not have extensive knowledge about this species. It is not easy to determine what motivates someone to shoot a Whooping Crane, but focus-group research shows that Whooping Cranes are not well known and are not highly valued. In order to change attitudes in Alabama, we initiated a pilot project designed to raise pride and awareness in Whooping Cranes. After the project is completed, we will evaluate its impact on public attitudes towards Whooping Cranes and determine which activities were most effective in creating pride and awareness.

Pride campaign

In 2015, the International Crane Foundation laid the ground work for a pride campaign in northern Alabama, a wintering area of the reintroduced eastern migratory population of Whooping Cranes. Our outreach plan included working with 27 Alabama partner organizations on K-12 education, television and radio Public Service Annoucements, billboards, social and traditional media campaigns, art and photo contests, presence at gun and hunting shows, hunter education, and promotion and support of Whooping Crane festivals. The goal of this campaign is to generate public awareness and cultivate advocacy for the Whooping Crane in a rural Alabama communities.

Future impacts

Following the completion of the first pride campaign season, we will use post-campaign surveys to determine the effect of our campaign on increasing positive attitudes towards Whooping Cranes. We will also ask survey participants to report on which parts of the pride campaign had the biggest impact on positive feelings towards Whooping Cranes.


With support from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, we will expand the scope of this project and replicate this approach in Indiana, Texas and Wisconsin, eventually developing a set of guidelines for how to raise awareness and pride in Whooping Cranes in any community. By 2025, our goal is to reduce the percentage of Whooping Crane deaths attributed to shootings to no more than 5% of adult mortality. By raising awareness and pride in Whooping Cranes, we can prevent illegal shootings and secure sustainable a future for these magnificent birds.

Project 152511747 location - United States, North America