Acronyms of the Whooping Crane World

There are lots (lots being relative since the whooping crane world is actually fairly small) of facilities, teams, and organizations that work with whooping cranes as well as terms specific to whooping crane projects and it’s not always easy to keep them all straight.  Having been a part of the whooping crane world for so many years I tend to speak and write using abbreviations and acronyms for these different organizations and terms.  However since not everyone else knows what they mean I thought it would be helpful to write a little guide or dictionary of sorts.  Also that way, in future updates that I write I’ll feel okay about using these abbreviations and not confusing people.

WC = Whooping Crane(s)

LDWF = Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries – lead agency responsible for current whooping crane reintroduction effort in the state of Louisiana.

LA = Louisiana – the actual state or reference to WC chicks being raised for the purpose of eventually being transferred and released in LA.

WLWCA = White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area – LDWF owned and managed property, current location of release site for reintroduced WCs.

WCRT or RT = (International) Whooping Crane Recovery Team - “Responsible for making recommendations on what is needed to be done for the species to recover.  This international team consists of 5 representatives from Canada and 5 from the U.S. appointed by the Canadian Wildlife Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, respectively.  The team is co-chaired by the whooping crane coordinators of the two countries.  In 1995, the separate recovery teams from both countries were joined as an international team.  This makes sense since only with actions carried out cooperatively in both countries can the species recover.  A Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of the Whooping Crane governs recovery actions that are outlined in a recovery plan written by the team.” (, International Whooping Crane Recovery Team Fact Sheet) 
“The Team is responsible for providing policy recommendations to the Regional Directors of both agencies and writing the plan to recover the species. Its primary goals are to take action to fully protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo natural flock, and to establish two additional flocks in order to remove the species from the Endangered Species Act.”  (
USFWS or FWS = United States Fish & Wildlife Service or Fish & Wildlife Service – “ ‘The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission is, working with others, to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.’ We are the only agency of the U.S. Government with that primary mission.  The Service helps protect a healthy environment for people, fish and wildlife, and helps Americans conserve and enjoy the outdoors and our living treasures. The Service's major responsibilities are for migratory birds, endangered species, certain marine mammals, and freshwater and anadromous fish.” (, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fact Sheet)

AWBP/Aransas = Aransas Wood Buffalo Population – the one truly wild population of whooping cranes.  These birds breed in the Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and migrate south to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the gulf coast of TX to spend the winter.  Once down to 15 birds in the winter of 1941-42, all WCs that are alive today are descended from those 15 birds.

NWR = National Wildlife Refuge, as in Aransas NWR, Necedah NWR, Chassahowitzka NWR, or St. Marks NWR

ESA = Endangered Species Act – WCs were listed as threatened with extinction in 1967 and by 1970 endangered.  Both listings were “grandfathered” into the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 (International Recovery Plan, 2007).

NEP = Non-essential, experimental population – also known as the 10j rule.  In 1982 this amendment to the ESA was created to allow an endangered species to be reintroduced without the full legal restriction of the ESA in order to encourage landowner support.  This designation allows more flexibility by not impacting the land management ability of private landowners.  All current WC reintroductions operate under this rule, only the AWBP WCs are considered fully endangered.

PWRC = (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center – largest captive whooping crane facility, and one of the five captive breeding facilities, located in Laurel, MD.  This is where the chicks for the LA reintroduction are hatched and raised.

ICF = International Crane Foundation – second largest captive whooping crane facility and also one of the five captive breeding facilities, located in Baraboo, WI.  This is where I worked for almost 12 years and where I learned all about WCs.

WCEP = Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership – made up of nine founding partners (federal, state, and non-profit) with the goal of reintroducing and establishing an eastern migratory population (EMP) of whooping cranes.  Within WCEP there are currently two different release techniques:
          DAR = Direct Autumn Release – Technique started by the FWS and ICF in 2005.  Whooping crane
          chicks are hatched and raised at ICF using the costume/isolation rearing technique.  After six-eight
          weeks the chicks are transferred to a field facility where they continue to be reared before being
          released in the fall/autumn with older previously released WCs from whom they learn how to
          migrate south.

          UL = Ultralight – The technique of teaching and training WC chicks to follow and fly behind an
          ultralight airplane in order to teach them a migration route from central WI to the gulf coast of FL. 
          Birds released using this technique are often referred to as UL birds or UL WCs.  These chicks are
          initially hatched and raised at PWRC before being transferred to a field site in WI for continued
          training prior to being led on their first fall migration.         

EMP = Eastern Migratory Population – refers to birds/population associated with WCEP, birds in that project are reintroduced into the eastern US and are taught or learn to migrate.

NMP = Non-Migratory Population – refers to a population of birds that do not migrate – they live year round in a particular area, as in the FL NMP reintroduction project and the current LA NMP reintroduction project.

Calgary = Calgary Zoo but more specifically the Devonian Wildlife Conservation Center (DVCC) and the Nat Christie Foundation Whooping Crane Breeding Facility also known at the Zoo Ranch, located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  The Calgary Zoo has a pair of WCs on display but the DVCC/Zoo Ranch is a separate private/off-exhibit area where additional pairs of whooping cranes live and breed.  This facility is one of the five captive breeding facilities and is the third largest.  Calgary ships their whooping crane eggs into the US – to PWRC or ICF, so they can be incorporated into one of the two current reintroduction projects.

ACRES and SSC = Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species and Species Survival Center – “The mission of Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species and Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center is to safeguard endangered animals for future generations through innovative scientific programs that accelerate reproduction and preserve the earth’s genetic heritage.  Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, which opened in 1996, is a facility of Audubon Nature Institute.” (
Similar to Calgary there is a display pair of WCs at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans but ACRES/SSC also located in New Orleans is a separate private breeding area, part of which is dedicated to housing and breeding WCs, making them the forth captive breeding facility.

SA = San Antonio Zoo – the fifth and final and currently the smallest captive whooping crane breeding facility located in San Antonio, TX.

Update written by Sara Zimorski