FRONT ROYAL, Va. - When the National Zoo tried to set up a pair of rare white-naped cranes, the date went sour and the lovebirds fought.
As part of the program, a 20-year-old female crane was paired with a male determined to be a good match. But the female had become attached to humans at an early age and didn't know how to do the dancing, unison calling, stick tossing and other rituals that are part of crane courtship, said animal keeper Warren Lynch.
"The male ended up beating her up," Lynch said. "He wanted to breed, but she wasn't giving him the proper cues."
Another keeper was able to gain the female's trust and artificially inseminate her without using anesthesia or restraints, which are risky for animals.
A few weeks later, the female laid a fertile egg. The breeding program was in dire need of more females, and Lynch was able to determine the chick was female before it hatched. The baby hatched May 23 and was placed in "foster care" with her father's parents because the mother wasn't paired with a male.
"Cranes actually are really good parents, but it requires both of them," Lynch said.