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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Two White-Naped Crane Chicks Hatched

It was recently announced that two White-naped Cranes chicks hatched on May 12 and May 14, 2010. They were born under a crane species survival program at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. The genes in the two new chicks are incredibly important to the survival of the species. The chicks were conceived via artificial insemination. The chicks' parents were cranes who had been unable to reproduce in captivity before because of behavioral or physical impairments. While this may seem like a bane to the genetic strength of the birds, the diversity that these unused genes can bring to the species is invaluable. There are so few cranes in these breeding programs, having new blood in the mix is a necessity.

White-naped Cranes are currently considered to be vulnerable by IUCN due to their dwindling population. Estimates place the White-naped Crane population to be between 5,000 and 6,500 birds. These cranes are native to much of Asia, inhabiting Japan, China, Russia, Mongolia, and North and South Korea. White-naped Cranes are known for their digging abilities and their dancing during courtship. They are omnivores, living off vegetation and small animals in wetland areas. It is because of the development of the wetlands and the creation of dams that the cranes are thought to be dying. Current conservation efforts include artificially feeding the birds and working to give them protected status in the countries they habituate.

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