Wood Buffalo National Park Among Most Threatened World Heritage Sites In North America

Wood Buffalo

A salt plain in Wood Buffalo National Park. DEA / G. CARFAGNA via Getty Images

One of the world’s largest groups of conservation scientists says Canada’s biggest national park is among the most threatened World Heritage Sites in North America.

Wood Buffalo National Park is a vast stretch of grassland, forest, wetland and lakes. Its 45,000 square kilometres contain one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas, uncountable flocks of waterfowl and songbirds, as well as ecological cycles and relationships that remain in their natural state.

It’s also the nesting site for the last flock of endangered whooping cranes.

It is considered to have “outstanding and universal value,” according to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But the nature conservation union, which includes 1,300 member organizations and 10,000 experts, said those values have slipped considerably since the last report in 2014.

Only four other sites in North America are as threatened as Wood Buffalo — three in Mexico and one in the United States. Wood Buffalo is the only North American World Heritage Site to have deteriorated since 2014.

It’s not the first time Canada has been warned about the future of Wood Buffalo. Last June, UNESCO scientists visited the park at the invitation of the Mikisew.

They found the same concerns listed in the report and warned the park’s world heritage status would be endangered unless Canada implemented 17 recommendations.

Click here to read more.

 

***** FOTWW’s mission is to help preserve and protect the Aransas/Wood Buffalo
population of wild whooping cranes and their habitat. *****

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization.

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An afternoon with a whooping crane family

By Val Mann – Guest Author

Very early Thursday morning Kim and I packed up Max (our car) and headed three hours north to the whooping cranes’ preferred staging grounds in farmers’ fields and sloughs. It was a warmish, beautiful, sunny day – perfect for a drive in the countryside.

Max doubles as a blind with the camera lenses through open windows. The car is a gold-brown colour and usually coated with a layer of grid road dust – perhaps blending with the golden harvested fields. Whatever the reason, wildlife tend to ignore the car.

Whooping crane

Whooping crane family foraging in the slough. Photo by Val Mann

Just over a grid road hill, a family of whooping cranes, parents and a colt, were foraging in a roadside slough. The family ignored us and continued to feed. At one point, judging from the behaviour, the parents wanted to roost and snooze in the warm prairie afternoon sunshine. Junior showed signs of being bored. After unsuccessfully trying to rouse the parents, the colt went foraging for snacks, wandering towards us. The parents kept a watchful eye on the youngster while they preened, but did not raise alarm. Eventually the colt returned to roost with the parents. Not that long after, a huge grain truck drove by and the cranes flew deep into the fields.

Wow, what an amazing experience to share time with them!

This was not a typical sighting. Normally the cranes are extremely human intolerant and keep at least 500 metres (about 1500 feet) from roads, humans, etc. The middle of a farmer’s field would be the norm.

Please note that we were actually a distance away – on a pullover off the far side of the road. The powerful super telephoto lens and post-production cropping make the birds appear considerably closer than they actually were.

Friends of the Wild Whoopers is very thankful that Val Mann shared her adventure with us. We hope that you enjoyed it and the photos below of the family of wild whooping cranes that she sent along to go with her story. Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge.

Thank you, Val!

Whooping Crane

Junior foraging with parents in the background. Photo by Val Mann

 

Whooping Crane

Whooping crane family preening together while roosting. Photo by Val Mann

 

Two whooping cranes: Junior and a parent, in flight. Photo by Val Mann

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