L.A. Zoo First: Sarus Crane Chick

By Sandy Masuo

In Myanmar, the sarus crane is celebrated as one of the reincarnations of Buddha. In Cambodia, it is engraved on the ancient temple walls of Angkor Watt. In Vietnam, it’s the holy bird that carries the souls of the dead to heaven. For Zoo member Elena S. Mavros, seeing and photographing the new sarus crane chick at the Elephants of Asia exhibit may not have been a spiritual experience, but it certainly was an exciting one.

“It can be very challenging to get photos in that exhibit,” Mavros comments. “I was just happy that my patience and determination paid off with some photos of the chick, as I wasn’t sure when I might get a chance to see her again and know how quickly baby birds grow.”

The chick’s August 9 hatching was a first for this species at the L.A. Zoo. Though the Zoo has cared for sarus cranes intermittently since 1979, our current breeding pair arrived only recently, on a recommendation from the Sarus Crane Species Survival Plan, a collaborative effort to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse captive population of this Vulnerable species.

Found in the plains of northwestern India, the western half of Nepal’s Terai Lowlands, and parts of Pakistan, sarus cranes are threatened by habitat loss and degradation primarily caused by the conversion of wetlands for farming and human development. The Zoo’s work with Indian gharials through the Wildlife Trust of India supports conservation efforts within the geographic range that both species share.

Sarus cranes are the world’s tallest flying birds and feed on aquatic plants, invertebrates, small vertebrates, and grains.