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Trump's budget cuts whooping crane project - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Trump's budget cuts whooping crane project

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Whooping Cranes in Louisiana / Courtesy of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Whooping Cranes in Louisiana / Courtesy of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

The Whooping Crane project at Patuxent is shutting down, a victim of the Trump Administration's proposed budget. 

"Some of you may have already heard the news but for those of you that haven't, the Whooping Crane captive breeding program at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center will be shutting down," the program's Facebook page reports. "We feel for our friends and colleagues who work there, many of whom have been there a dozen years or more. We are proud of everything they've accomplished or helped to accomplish and are incredibly grateful for their tireless efforts to help save and protect Whooping Cranes over the years!"

According to the page, the program is one being cut by the proposed 2018 budget, the reason being "propagation for release does not fit easily in our current research mission, and USGS will focus limited resources on filling gaps of information for species at risk that are not well studied."

The program has been working for years to coax the species back from the brink of extinction. Although other programs will continue, the closure still will have an impact on the species, the page predicts. 

"We have been reassured that the LA reintroduction is still a priority for the International Whooping Crane Recovery Team and it's definitely still a priority for LDWF. However, whooping cranes are sensitive to disturbance and change so there will certainly be a decrease in the captive production of eggs and chicks for the next few years as the PWRC birds are transferred to new facilities," according to the page. "What that translates to is a smaller number of chicks available to release but what that number will actually be, we just don't know."

The page includes the following fact sheet about the program: 

Background: Fifty years ago USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center initiated the North American effort to breed endangered Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) in captivity, and together with many partners over the years, developed a comprehensive program for Whooping Crane conservation. Patuxent has been a leader in that effort ever since, and the program has become an example of endangered species conservation and recovery known world-wide. Whooping cranes are still endangered, but the overall population has grown more than 10-fold in that period.

The Whooping Crane Propagation Program at Patuxent will close in FY18 and birds will be moved to other institutions. Several factors contribute to that decision including that propagation for release does not fit easily in our current research mission, and USGS will focus limited resources on filling gaps of information for species at risk that are not well studied. Closure of the propagation program will present some challenges for the many partners who are now involved with Whooping Crane reintroductions.

Actions: The proper disposition of approximately 75 Whooping Cranes now in Patuxent’s care will require time and resources to accomplish. Breeding Whooping Cranes at Patuxent will be sent to other captive breeding centers, hence will not be lost to the program, but there likely will be a disruption of reproduction in those birds for the 2018 season and beyond. The disposition of cranes now in Patuxent’s care will follow the recommendations of the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the captive flock. The SSP is a formal set of procedures that allow all captive WCs to be managed as a single population, no matter where they are housed. The considerable expertise among Patuxent staff, ranging from animal husbandry to reintroduction methodologies to results of scientific studies, will be available for consultation and training to make the transition as effective as possible.

Conservation impact: Whooping Crane captive breeding for reintroduction in North America is one part of the strategy for conservation and restoration of the species. That strategy is guided by a joint US/Canada International Recovery Team as described in the Whooping Crane Recovery Plan. The impact of closing the Whooping Crane Propagation Program at Patuxent may be to slow the rate of production of chicks for reintroduction of Whooping Cranes, at least temporarily. In the long term, we foresee no detrimental impact on whooping crane production in captivity and we expect that conservation actions that benefit the growth Whooping Crane numbers will continue.

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