The International Crane Foundation is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin and showcases all fifteen (15) species of cranes found throughout the world. Stacia and Eddie (Birdfreak) went there as part of an NCIOS (Rockford Bird Club) field trip. While we didn’t get to see all 15 species, we saw and learned a lot.
The International Crane Foundation (ICF) is bird conservation at its finest. Founded in 1973 by Ron Sauey and George Archibald, ICF has maintained its core mission and goals of providing a “species bank” for the world’s cranes. Through extensive research on crane biology, ICF has been able to hatch young of all the crane species.
This was my third visit to ICF but Stacia’s first and also the first time having a tour guide. Our guide, Darcy, was overflowing with information and led us through the newly opened “Spirit of Africa” which displays the four crane species that breed in Africa [Black Crowned, Blue, Grey Crowned, & Wattled].
We then visited a few more amazing species before reaching perhaps the most magnificent display: Whooping Cranes! These majestic birds faced extinction head on and have since rebounded from an unimaginable low of 16[!] birds to around 500 today. The display mimics a traditional crane wetland and allows for close views and for the birds to freely move about.
All ICF cranes have clipped wings to prevent them from escaping. However, we were told that one of the Whoopers was enticed by a flyover of wild Sandhill Cranes and was able to somehow glide over the enclosure. He apparently timed an excellent gust from the grassy hilltop and was momentarily free.
The International Crane Foundation is the epitome of how conservation should be accomplished. Not only are they directly increasing bird populations from captive breeding programs, but they incorporate the living birds to provide much needed educational value. This real life example of just how amazing cranes are helps promote the on-site conservation efforts ICF is associated with. And ICF is fully dedicated to worldwide crane conservation.
We need more organizations that put their energy into highly targeted conservation efforts and focus on education. ICF makes you want to help conserve (and enjoy) cranes not by guilt-tripping you into joining their cause. Instead they focus on the positive efforts and real changes that their organization and countless other dedicated individuals have done.
I can tell you how wonderful the International Crane Foundation is but you really need to experience it first hand. This is a place for all birders of any age and skill level. Visiting here is one of the best ways to lead someone into becoming a lifelong conservationist and birder.