Winging It

Your support for Como Friends helped Mutambi the gray crowned crane recover quickly after a wing injury, and rejoin breeding partner, Houdini

Earlier this spring, Mutambi the gray crowned crane had an unexpected run-in with one of the Grant’s zebras as they raced through the African Hoofstock habitat in what may have been a mating pursuit. While zookeepers didn’t see the collision, they were on the spot with Como’s veterinary team within minutes, using a new portable x-ray machine—funded by Como Friends supporters—to get a better understanding of her injury. 

“It was basically a dislocated elbow that vets were able to pop back into place and bandage up for a couple of weeks,” says Como Zoo hoofstock keeper Aaron Nelson. “She just wasn’t able to get out of the way in time, and may have even spread her wings to make herself look bigger, which was probably not the right move for her to make in that situation.”

Fortunately, Mutambi has made a full recovery, as Como visitors will see this summer. Together with her breeding partner Houdini, the pair have begun demonstrating a few of the moves in the elaborate mating dance this ancient and endangered crane species is known for. 

“They’re a visually striking animal to look at, but they’re also very charismatic, especially this time of year,” says Nelson. “Not only do they do these really intricate courtship dances with each other, they’re also accompanied by these kind of booming and rhythmic-sounding vocalizations that are very unique.”

Como Zoo’s gray crowned cranes were selected as a breeding pair for the Species Survival Plan, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums program designed to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos that are endangered or threatened in the wild. While the young pair have yet to show signs of breeding behavior, keepers are encouraged by their mutual interest in each other. 

“Like most crane species, gray crowned cranes are monogamous and they will bond with one mate for pretty much their entire life,” says Nelson. “The courtship dancing is a really good sign, because it means they’re pair bonded at the very least. The fact that they are vocalizing at each other and doing these dances is a really good sign that they’re at least interested in each other.” 

Elevated Care for All of Como’s Animals 

From portable x-ray machines and ultrasound monitors, to high-tech equipment that supports animal vision, dental health, and water quality, your support for Como Friends is critical to providing the cutting-edge care that keeps animals like Mutambi healthy and curious. At Como Friends’ upcoming Sunset Affair: Our Wild World, your generosity helps to invest in elevated care for more than 1,200 animals at Como Zoo. Buy your ticket today or make a contribution to our Fund-a-Mission program to support the animals, plants and people that come together at Como Park Zoo & Conservatory.  

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