We humans can save species!

ICF Whooping Crane update

I don’t know if you’re aware of the stunning success story of the Whooping Crane? Nearly extinct after World War II, decades of dedicated effort by government agencies and volunteers, in particular George Archibald at the International Crane Foundation (which he founded, take a look at it now!), have given rise to a latest count (from the ICF website) of 849 Whooping Cranes, 163 of whom are in captivity.

A couple of months ago, in the depths of existential despair as a result of events and my own reading, I chanced upon the August Whooping Crane Eastern Population Update from the pen of Crane Analyst Hillary Thompson. This discusses the 86 of the overall 849 Whooping Cranes in a handful of northeastern states, mostly in Wisconsin. Reading the report was a balm soothing my raging heart, a song about the dedication that humankind can show to non-human species, in a sense the best of humankind. Hillary Thompson goes into full details on the year’s 19 wild-hatched chicks, all banded and hence kept track of, and that story struck me as modern-day drama. I found myself affected by the final item in the report, “Mortality or Long-term missing.” Here’s what Hillary records: “9_03 (F) was found dead on 3 July at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Juneau Co, WI. Cause of death appears to be predation.”

Thank you, Hillary. Thank you, ICF. Thank you and thank you.

Welcome to 15 Cranes in the Anthropocene!

Whooping Crane

July 22, yesterday, I announced to myself, an audience of one: I, Andres Kabel, embark on a quest. Roll that word – quest, quest, quest – around your mouth. I’m guessing you taste foreignness. Doesn’t that q-word come across as archaic? Presumptuous? Quests take place in fables, I hear you tell me.

Sigh. A fable could well be the fate of my efforts. But, damn it, that first step I took yesterday was, indeed, my quest.

I am a city boy. The world of nature and I were separate for decades. I came to birding – the insider term for birdwatcher – late in life and, to tell the truth, in terms of quality of birding and knowledge of birds, I am mediocre. But all that makes no difference. I’m on a quest and my quest is to exhaustively learn everything I can about a particular set of birds, to understand them, and to champion them in a hotting-up world that inexorably encroaches on their continued survival.

Let me be more precise. Over the next years, I shall bear witness to our Earth’s fifteen species of Cranes – the Black Crowned Crane, the Black-necked Crane, the Blue Crane, the Brolga, the Demoiselle Crane, the Eurasian Crane, the Grey Crowned Crane, the Hooded Crane, the Red-crowned Crane, the Sandhill Crane, the Sarus Crane, the Siberian Crane, the Wattled Crane, the White-naped Crane, and the Whooping Crane.

The actors in this tale are not just the fifteen Crane species and me, but Earth in the Anthropocene Era, the first epoch in which the human race helps shape the planet at geologic scale. My quest must necessarily ask: what is the physical future on Earth for me and the Cranes? What is my culpability and what should I do?

Come join me. Don’t be at all daunted, you’ll see soon enough how ill equipped I come to my quest. That’s why I need allies, colleagues, and collaborators. You’ll hear more from me over the coming days, months, and years, but in the meantime do drop by for a chat via email, Facebook or Twitter.