San Antonio Zoo Opens New Habitat for the Endangered Whooping Crane New habitat highlights zoo’s conservation efforts to bring the species back from the brink

Jennifer Pue |

San Antonio Zoo opened its newest habitat, Back from the Brink, for the tallest North American bird, the Whooping crane. In fact, San Antonio Zoo was instrumental in bringing this bird back from the brink of extinction because of their efforts in 1956 when the species was left with only 16 total Whooping cranes in the wild. 

Recovery efforts for the Whooping crane began when the zoo was contacted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to help an injured crane, Rosie, who suffered a wing injury.  After Rosie recovered, the zoo was given approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to launch a breeding program to help repopulate Whooping cranes and reintroduce them back into the wild. The “Whooping Crane Recovery Program” was wildly successful and in 2016 San Antonio Zoo was recognized for its efforts by receiving the prestigious North American Conservation Award from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

“We hope this habitat shows guests how remarkable this animal is and gives them a whole new appreciation for the conservation work the zoo has been able to accomplish,” said Tim Morrow, President & CEO of San Antonio Zoo. “In some ways, our work is just beginning. With our AZA and conservation partners, we’re making strides daily to ensure whooping cranes are here for generations to come.”

This new habitat features shallow, grassy wetlands with beautiful landscaping in addition to pure well water. All of these elements create a suitable environment for breeding. In 1967, Rosie was able to produce offspring and since then the zoo has been instrumental in developing techniques to help other institutions successfully breed Whooping cranes.

Whooping cranes are only one of two crane species found in North America and are listed as endangered. Adults can reach up to five feet tall with a wingspan of up to seven feet and their whooping calls can be heard for up to two miles. While populations are steadily increasing, they are still faced with habitat loss and over-hunting. Having the Back from the Brink habitat here at the zoo will help with conservation efforts by educating the public on Whooping cranes and what they can do to help protect their natural homes.