Whooping Crane Day takes place on May 28 each year to celebrate the world’s rarest crane species. At one time, their range extended across much of North America. Unfortunately, overhunting and habitat loss in the early 1900’s nearly drove them to extinction. By 1941, there were only 21 whooping cranes left in the wild. Thanks to reintroduction programs and habitat restoration efforts, whooping crane numbers have since risen to over 800 individuals. While they have made an incredible comeback, whooping cranes are still an endangered species. They continue to face threats in the wild such as continued habitat loss, pollution, illegal shooting, poaching, and climate change.
The Houston Zoo is a proud supporter of whooping crane conservation in several different ways. We partner with the International Crane Foundation in support of their Texas Whooping Crane Outreach Biologist position. We are also a sponsor of the Whooping Crane Festival held in Port Aransas at the end of February each year. Nearly 70% of the entire whooping crane population spends the winter months at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge right here in Texas. Part of the Whooping Crane Festival includes various biologists and conservationists who speak to the public about whooping cranes and the current work that is being done across North America to protect cranes and their habitats. Guests are also provided the opportunity to visit whooping crane habitat for a chance to see them in the wild!
Here at Houston Zoo, we are home to two whooping cranes named Heiden and Angel. These birds previously lived at the International Crane Foundation before coming to the Houston Zoo in 2019. They have been together as a pair for over a decade. These majestic birds serve as ambassadors for their species, allowing over 2 million guests that walk through our gates every year to connect with this endangered species and learn about the threats they continue to face in the wild. Our Zoo Crew teens can sometimes be spotted outside the whooping crane habitat, talking to guests about cranes and the wetland habitats they depend on to thrive. In addition, we have conducted several Facebook Live features with Heiden and Angel, increasing our outreach to those who may not be able to visit the Zoo in person.
You can see Heiden and Angel in our Kathrine G. McGovern Texas Wetlands exhibit. By visiting the Houston Zoo, you are helping our efforts to protect this endangered species and the wetlands they depend on to thrive.