13 July 2023

A vulnerable, red-crowned crane hatchling has received a clean bill of health from vets this week at Whipsnade Zoo and will soon join an international breeding programme designed to protect the species' future.  

A vulnerable, red-crowned crane hatchling has received a clean bill of health from vets this week at Whipsnade Zoo and will soon join an international breeding programme designed to protect the species' future.  
The iconic bird, considered sacred in Japan, hatched on Sunday 2 July and has already been spotted by visitors peeking out from under its mother's wing at the conservation zoo. 

A red-crowned crane being held by a vet wearing blue gloves
A red-crowned crane chick gets first health check
A red crowned crane chick, with mother Blossom searching for food at Whipsnade Zoo

Bird keeper Alex Johnson said: “A team of zookeepers and veterinary experts joined forces to perform the all-important health check on the four-day-old, while its dedicated parents looked on. The little bundle of red fluff was carefully weighed at 206g, before Vet Shiva Sawmy listened to the hatchling's heartbeat and lungs, and methodically checked its wings, feet and eyes. The little one   was also given a treatment against worms.”  
Vet nurse Karla Berry said parasites, like worms, were a common killer for the rare species.  
“Red-crowned cranes often forage for insects and sadly as the parents feed their chicks, they can pass on parasites, which could be deadly. By applying this antiparasitic treatment for worms, we can protect this important hatchling and help ensure it remains strong and healthy as it grows and explores its home in the heart of the Dunstable Downs,” she said.  

A red-crowned crane chick is checked over by two vets

The delicate chick was quickly returned to the care of its protective parents until its next health check at four-months-old, when the team will take a DNA sample from the hatchling to find out if it is male or female.  
Keeper Alex added that the chick’s monogamous parents, who have been together since 2009, were doing a great job looking after the important youngster – their first, after years of fostering others.  
“The chick’s 40-year-old dad, Fuji, and 17-year-old mum, Blossom, have been diligently feeding the chick, sharing the load of raising it, and can often be seen tucking the hatchling under their wing when it needs a bit of a snooze or a rest from exploring. The cranes, which have a bright red ‘crown’ on the top of their heads are tried and tested parents, having fostered hatchlings from other crane species for the last five years. It's great they now have their own chick to care for.” 
Male or female, the chick will be an important part of the international breeding programme for the species. 
“With less than 2,200 adult red-crowned cranes left in China and Japan, hatchlings like this little one help form an important insurance policy, for if we ever need to re-introduce the birds back into the wild,” said Alex. “Despite being a symbol of happiness and long life in Japan, the crane population continues to decline across East Asia due to habitat loss, flooding, hunting and pollution in important wetland areas.” 
ZSL, the international conservation charity behind Whipsnade Zoo, is working to restore wetland environments across Africa, in Amazonian flooded forests, London and across Asia - where the team have replanted more than one million mangrove trees in the Philippines. Mangrove forests are among the most threatened ecosystems on Earth and by restoring these areas, it helps the long-term survival of many birds and marine species, as well as helping to combat the effects of climate change,” Alex said.    

Visitors at Whipsnade Zoo see the new hatching and 11,000 other animals at Whipsnade Zoo this summer. Children can also learn more about becoming a conservation warrior as the Beanotown kids land at Whipsnade Zoo on July 22. 

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