Conserving Whooping Cranes at Wood Buffalo National Park

Jul 30, 2014

Meet one of the biggest names in Canadian whooping crane conservation! The Calgary Zoo has been a part of the captive breeding of whooping cranes since 1989, and while we and other organizations work to bring the captive and wild populations together, the only wild nesting population in the world has long been living Canada- in Wood Buffalo National Park! 

The park, which was formed in 1922, is the largest national park in Canada, and a World Heritage site. WBNP straddles the Northwest Territories, Alberta border with two thirds of the park in Alberta.. The park takes up 44,807 square kilometers, which is larger than Switzerland!

In 1954, Wood Buffalo National Park made an important discovery- that they were home to whooping cranes! It’s extremely important to conserve these birds, as they are still endangered, and remain in danger of extinction. At one point there were less than 25 known birds, and through years of careful conservation work there are now approximately 600 birds, with almost 300 of those calling WBNP their home. The birds migrate over 4000km to Texas each year, and their travel route takes them through Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In order to best preserve the species, the whooping cranes in the park are well protected. There are 5 zones of differing protection, Zone 1 being the highest level of security. Zone 1, which is where the cranes choose to nest, allows no public access. This kind of dedication to conservation has seen great results- it has been reported that this year has the highest number of nests on record, at 82!

Not only does Wood Buffalo National Park offer consistent protection and conservation of these rare birds, but also offers opportunity for camping, swimming and hiking. The diverse landscape includes a salt plain, which you can tour with a guide or make your own adventure. Backcountry camping in one of the largest remaining grasslands in North America is “an authentic wildlife experience,” says Richard Zaidan, WBNP’s Resource Management Officer.

We are so glad to see Canadians working together to help preserve the whooping crane for future generations.