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Denver Zoo celebrates its first-ever hatching of a Sarus crane

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Denver Zoo is celebrating its first-ever hatching of a Sarus (SAHR-uhss) crane, the tallest of all flying birds. The chick, whose sex is still unknown, hatched on the morning of August 17 and hasn’t been named yet. Along with first-time parents, mother Violetta and father Alfredo, the chick can be seen now at The Kenneth King Foundation Crane Lagoon at the Zoo’s Toyota Elephant Passage.

“Denver Zoo is proud to celebrate its first hatching of a Sarus crane with Alfredo and Violetta,” said Assistant Curator of Predators Matt Lenyo. “We are happy to see the chick growing stronger each day, and the new parents are proving to be naturals.”

Zookeepers found the chick’s egg on July 15 and checked on it several times a day before moving it to the Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center for artificial incubation. In its place, the parents were given a “dummy” wooden egg to brood. This was done to ensure the chick’s best chance of survival. The chick was returned to its parents upon hatching and keepers say they have been providing excellent care ever since. Keepers say it has become very mobile and can be seen walking long distances around its enclosure. Both parents have spent time brooding and feeding the chick worms. Violetta or Alfredo are always by the chick’s nest and the birds are all vocalizing to each other.

Alfredo hatched at Lowery Park Zoo in Florida in August 2003 and he came to Denver Zoo from Calgary Zoo Canada in November 2011. Violetta hatched at San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park in October 2006 and she arrived at Denver Zoo from San Diego Zoo Safari Park in May 2007. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. The chick’s hatching brings the Zoo’s total number of Sarus cranes to three.

Sarus cranes grow to nearly 6-feet tall and are native to Southeast Asia and Australia. Their bodies are almost entirely gray and white, except for their red necks and heads. The species is classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Their major threats include a combination of loss and degradation of wetlands, as well as the hunting of adult Sarus cranes and collection of eggs and chicks for trade and food.

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