Audubon fund-raising for whooping cranes

The Northwest Illinois Audubon Society has begun a fund-raising campaign to strengthen the efforts of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, the coalition of organizations working to establish a migratory population of endangered whooping cranes in the Eastern U.S. The project suffered a significant setback Feb. 1 and 2, when severe storms swept through central Florida and resulted in the drowning deaths of 17 juvenile whooping cranes at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).

“We wanted to do something to help the Partnership,” said Audubon Conservation Chairman Keith Blackmore. “Since certain aspects of the reintroduction project are very expensive, and so many cranes died this year, we knew that additional funds to continue the project were necessary.”

The Northwest Illinois Audubon Society (NIAS) board has jump-started the fund-raising by donating $500 to the fund. Anyone who wishes to make a personal donation should write a check made payable to NIAS and mail to Northwest Illinois Audubon Society, P.O. Box 771, Freeport, IL 61032 before April 16. All contributions are tax-deductible.

At the conclusion of the campaign, funds raised will be sent to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, one of the nine founding members of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership. Charlie Luthin, the Foundation’s director and Freeport High School graduate, stated that all funds raised by Audubon will be used exclusively for the Whooping Crane reintroduction project.

During each project year, new chicks are released at the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin and are then taught a migration route to the Chassahowitzka NWR in Florida. The ultimate reintroduction goal is to restore a self-sustaining population consisting of a minimum of 25 breeding pairs.

Whooping cranes are one of the best-known endangered species. Their numbers were reduced to only 15 individuals in 1941. Today, the species numbers fewer than 500, with most of those birds belonging to the central North American flock, which winters along the Texas Gulf Coast.

From the Feb. 21-27, 2007, issue

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