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Friday, November 23, 2012

The Man Who Saved Whooping Cranes

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Kathleen Kaska

After six years of research, a project near and dear to my heart finally came to fruition. The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story was released on September 16 by University Press of Florida. In the past few weeks, I’ve been giving presentations at libraries, Audubon chapters, nature centers, and bookstores. When people ask “why the whooping cranes and why Robert Porter Allen?’ my best answer is, “the book is my effort to make a difference in the world of wildlife conservation.” When I began my search, I realized that not many people, even birders, had heard of Robert Porter Allen. I felt his contribution and hard work was too important to be forgotten.

I first lay eyes on the whooping cranes in the early nineties at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast where the cranes spend the winter. These regal, majestic, birds stole my heart on that very first trip to the refuge. I was moved by the story of their recovery and by the ornithologist who spent nine years trying to save them from extinction. At the time, I was teaching science. After that first field trip, I returned to school and wrote an environment/ecology unit, using the whooping cranes as a focal point. I wanted my students to understand that anyone can contribute to a worthy cause and make a difference. It wasn’t long before they were hooked into the whoopers’ saga. I then published a couple of articles on this topic, and during my research I realized that the story was too big to cover in a 1,500-word article. I decided to turn the project into a book. Below is a synopsis of The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story. I recently learned that the book has been nominated for the George Perkins Marsh award for environmental history.

Image source: University Press

Hidden somewhere in northern Saskatchewan, possibly as far north as the Arctic Circle, less than thirty whooping cranes are nesting and raising their young for what may be the last time. The year is 1947, and the Canadian wilderness is changing at an alarming rate. Airplane travel is accelerating development of the wilderness. Soon every corner of virgin forest will be explored for ores, oil, timber, fish resources, and anything man finds useful. Unless the nesting site can be located and protected, all conservation efforts to save the whooping crane will fail.

The Canadian Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined the National Audubon Society in a three-way stewardship to locate their nesting site. The first two searches in the summers of 1945 and 46 have failed. The number of cranes migrating to their winter home in Austwell, Texas continues to plummet. John Baker, president of Audubon, grows desperate. He calls in his most tenacious ornithologist, Robert Porter Allen, who has just returned from serving his country in World War II.

This is the true story of the whooping crane’s survival and the man who brought them back from the brink of extinction, a feat that changed the course of history and led to the passage of the Endangered Species Act. Robert Porter Allen marched across American firing up the country with never-before-seen enthusiasm for an environmental cause. Before televisions began to appear in American homes, before the Internet provided global information in mere seconds, Allen and his Audubon team triggered a media blitz equal to that of a decade before when Seabiscuit mania had America enthralled with a racehorse.

The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story is timely and will capture the hearts of anyone who appreciates wildlife conservation and enjoys a true adventure story. Robert Porter Allen’s story is best described as Indiana Jones meets John James Audubon.

Kathleen has written several articles for Kings River Life.

Kathleen Kaska is the author the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. All three have just been reissued in by LL-Publications. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Her third Sydney Lockhart mystery will be out soon. Learn more on her website.


  1. Thanks for posting my article today, Lorie. It's always a pleasure to appear in your magazine.

  2. Robert Porter Allen's story is an exciting adventure of his dedication to saving the beautiful, majestic whooping cranes. Just like the cranes strong will and endurance in migrating, Allen's determination to save them is just as remarkable.

  3. Thanks, Karla, for stopping by and I'm so glad you enjoyed the book.