International Crane Foundation
E-11376 Shady Lane Rd

Baraboo, WI 53913

May 30, 2002

While visiting an area of Wisconsin near Baraboo, I happened on a brochure for the International Crane Foundation. Having had some previous contact with a Sand Hill Crane, we decided it would be interesting to see what the ICF was all about. In today's world it is easy to sit back and say "Oh, there's nothing I can do about XXX" so we do nothing. Fortunately for the cranes there were two men back in 1973 that believed they could make a difference and have. These two men, George Archibald and Ron Sauey met in 1971. George was investigating crane behavior while Ron was studying their ecology. Realizing that cranes were under intense pressure from the world's rapidly expanding human population, George and Ron decided to establish an organization dedicated to the study and preservation of cranes. In 1973, they founded the International Crane Foundation (ICF) on the horse farm owned by Ron's parents just north of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Although cranes had been held in captivity for thousands of years, little was known about their breeding behavior and few had hatched in captivity. George and Ron reasoned that breeding cranes in captivity was an important step toward preserving them. They wanted to create a "species bank" where cranes could be kept safely until the factors causing their decline, such as loss of habitat and indiscriminate hunting, were corrected. Construction of crane "bungalows" with large outside pens soon began at the Sauey farm. An incubator was installed in the basement of the barn, while the horse stalls were remodeled into crane pens. Once adequate facilities were ready, Ron and George contacted zoos all over the world, asking to borrow cranes. Birds began arriving from zoos in Japan, Europe, North America, and Russia. Eurasian and Siberian Crane chicks, hatched from eggs retrieved from wild nests in Sweden and Russia, augmented the growing flock. ICF's reputation spread with a succession of "firsts" in captive breeding: Hooded and Siberian Cranes produced young for the first time in captivity and Brolgas and Black-necked Cranes hatched for the first time in North America. ICF's biologists were the first to hatch an endangered species from an egg fertilized by cryogenically-preserved (frozen) semen. As the expertise of the staff grew, new opportunities followed. In 1989, the Patusent Wildlife Research Center, home to nearly all captive Whooping Cranes, sent half of their flock to ICF. In addition to working with the cranes ICF's staff also works to help preserve and restore the habitat for the various species of cranes. Part of doing this involves educating people as to what impact their actions have towards the wild creatures of this world. Their final move after breeding and raising the cranes, and restoring their habitats is to release the cranes back into the wild. In the early spring of 1983, ICF moved its offices and its captive flock five miles north of the Sauey farm to a new 160 acre site, later expanded to 225 acres. A new headquarters building was constructed which now houses offices, laboratories, and a hatchery. They also included a library and a museum, where they had pictures relating to Cranes and their habitats drawn by students from all over the world. Some of the artwork was spectacular. It was evident that a number of these children definitely had artistic talent. In another building they had their incubator set up in such a way that it was possible to see the chick in his habitat. One of the things that they are very careful about is "imprinting" the chick with the image of a "bird" parent not a human, so it will be possible for him/her to know that he is a bird and not a human as he grows to adulthood. They do this by putting a bird puppet over their hand and feeding the chick in this manner. When it is necessary for the human handler to go into the cage they actually wear an entire "bird costume". In Baraboo and around the world, ICF concentrates on its five major program areas: education, research, habitat restoration and preservation, captive breeding, and reintroduction. Today, in their quarters in Baraboo, visitors can walk nearly three miles of trails through the restorations, or take a guided tour of the most complete collection of cranes in the world. We were fortunate to have a lovely lady by the name of Jeanie, for our guide. She did an excellent job, explaining the beginnings, and the purpose of ICF. It was obvious the pride that she took in the part she played in ICF. It was fascinating to see these endangered birds up close. Many of these birds are seldom seen in their natural habitat because they can be shy, reclusive birds. After spending time visiting the facilities and seeing these beautiful birds, I was very impressed with the work that has been accomplished by two men who had a dream, and the belief that they could make a difference.

Good Luck! Have Fun! and Stay Safe!