/PRNewswire/ -- As Operation Migration begins its 10th annual multi-state trek, designed to conserve the whooping crane, Southern Company is once again on board as a sponsor.
Southern Company will be a sponsor of the migration for the third consecutive year. The unique effort, in which the endangered birds are taught a migration route by following ultralight aircraft, is set to begin this month.
This year's journey will take about a dozen birds from Wisconsin to Florida. The migration will cover 1,285 miles and pass through seven states, including three served by Southern Company subsidiaries – Alabama (Alabama Power), Georgia (Georgia Power) and Florida (Gulf Power).
During the migration, Southern Company is the presenting sponsor of Operation Migration's daily EarlyBird E-bulletin. To subscribe, send your name and e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org and include "EarlyBird" in the subject field.
The mission of Operation Migration USA Inc. is to promote the conservation of migratory species, including the whooping crane. The non-profit organization seeks to increase the number of whooping cranes it rears and leads south with the goal of helping the population reach a self-sustaining level.
A three-year grant to Operation Migration USA was made beginning in 2008 through Power of Flight, a partnership between Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to protect birds through habitat and species restoration and environmental education.
"We continue to be inspired by the dedication and effort shown by our partners at Operation Migration USA, and look forward to working with them on another whooping crane migration," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company chief environmental officer. "Partnerships such as this are the essence of our commitment to be a leader in environmental stewardship."
"Each year, the journey from central Wisconsin to the west coast of Florida is part thrill, part challenge," said Joe Duff, Operation Migration CEO and senior pilot. "Featuring humans, animals, aircraft and, without fail, many life lessons, it is the ultimate reality show – and the best edge-of-seat drama a wildlife conservation project could offer."
"Seeing our Power of Flight project with Southern Company yield such positive outcomes is extremely rewarding," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director of NFWF. "We're optimistic about the progress of the migration effort and the eventual restoration of the crane population."
The cranes led on the migration are hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. They are taught to follow specially modified ultralight aircraft before being shipped to Wisconsin at about 50 days of age. Eventually, they follow a fleet of three ultralight aircraft on their first southward migration.
Once the birds learn the migratory route, they return on their own the following spring. Each year a new generation is taught the route and released. Once the flock reaches 125 birds, including 25 breeding pairs, it can be considered self-sustaining.
The migration can take from 50 to 90 days as the schedule is affected by weather. Progress reports and photos are updated regularly and posted on Operation Migration's website at http://www.operationmigration.org/Field_Journal.html.
Since 2001, Operation Migration has played a lead role in the reintroduction of endangered whooping cranes into eastern North America. During the 1940s, only 15 birds survived in the world, although the species was not declared endangered until 1971. The primary reason for the birds' disappearance was over hunting and the destruction of its natural habitat; however, thanks to conservation efforts, nearly 500 whooping cranes survive today in wild populations and in captive breeding centers.
Operation Migration USA Inc. is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the conservation of migratory species through innovative research, education and partnerships. Operation Migration is a founding partner of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, the coalition of non-profit organizations and government agencies behind the project to safeguard the endangered whooping crane from extinction.
A nonprofit established by Congress in 1984, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation sustains, restores and enhances the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Through leadership conservation investments with public and private partners, NFWF is dedicated to achieving maximum conservation impact. Since its establishment, the Foundation has awarded over 10,000 grants to more than 3,700 organizations in the United States and abroad and leveraged, with its partners, more than $635 million into over $1.6 billion for conservation.
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