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Denver Zoo zookeepers welcomed the hatching of a hooded crane chick on June 12, thanks to help from the International Crane Foundation.
In the past, our adult hooded cranes, Jake and Leonore, have attempted to produce offspring for some time, but have struggled, even with the assistance of artificial insemination (AI). Fortuitously, our bird staff had been communicating with the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wis., a non-profit that is open to the public and specializes in the study and conservation of all crane species. ICF had a female hooded crane lay fertile eggs around the same time that Denver Zoo’s female crane laid her recent clutch of eggs. Because that set was also infertile, Denver Zoo Assistant Curator of Birds Mary Jo Willis traveled to Wisconsin in early June to retrieve the unhatched egg and bring it back to Denver for surrogate rearing by our hooded crane pair.
This rearing technique allows the crane chick to be parent-raised and naturally learn important crane behaviors. The crane chick, whose gender is still unknown, is named “Cholula.” The crane family is currently off exhibit at the Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center, one of the nation’s largest zoological bird breeding facilities specializing in the successful reproduction of important bird species.
Cholula, or “Cho” for short, enjoys playing hide-and-seek with our keepers, and loves hunting bugs, a behavior that was taught by its parents. The chick also has a sibling named Wasabi (hence Cho's condiment-inspired name), who is being raised by a foster mother at ICF.
Wild Hooded cranes can be found in wetlands of Russia, parts of China and Mongolia. According to Denver Zoo Curator of Birds John Azua, only 28 hooded crane individuals currently exist in North American zoos and their species’ conservation status is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Azua is also responsible for the hooded crane studbook, an inventory tool used by zoo professionals to keep track of various species individuals and their populations.