Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 21:21 EDT

Southern Company Supports Operation Migration to Conserve Endangered Whooping Crane

October 20, 2011

ATLANTA, Oct. 20, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — A group of 10 young whooping cranes has taken to the air on an annual migration to help conserve the species, and Southern Company is standing behind them.

As part of its commitment to environmental stewardship, Southern Company, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, has sponsored Operation Migration through the Power of Flight conservation program since 2008.

Operation Migration’s mission is to promote the conservation of migratory species, including the endangered whooping crane. The non-profit organization is working to increase the number of whooping cranes it rears and leads south with the goal of helping the population reach a self-sustaining level.

Its annual migration, now in its 11th year, takes young cranes on a 1,285-mile journey from Wisconsin to Florida. The birds are trained, with the help of costumed personnel and puppets, to follow an ultralight aircraft on the migratory route that prepares them to return on their own the following spring.

This year’s migration launched on Oct. 9, and is expected to last from 50 to 90 days, depending on the weather. The route includes three states served by Southern Company electric utility subsidiaries: Alabama (Alabama Power), Georgia (Georgia Power) and Florida (Gulf Power). Both longtime “craniacs” and the growing legion of newer fans can see the birds at flyover points scheduled along the way.

“The whooping crane migration is an amazing experience that allows us to witness in real time an endangered species being saved,” said Chris Hobson, Southern Company chief environmental officer. “We are excited to join with Operation Migration to take conservation to such a dramatic level.”

“Although this will be our 11th ultralight-led migration with whooping cranes, each year inevitably presents new challenges,” said Joe Duff, senior pilot and CEO of Operation Migration. “It took the combined efforts of many people, including sponsors like Southern Company, to bring this conservation project to this stage. We have done everything we can to prepare the young cranes, now all we need are favorable winds and a little luck.”

“With each successful Operation Migration flight, we’re helping a generation of whooping cranes learn a behavior that once came naturally,” said NFWF Executive Director and CEO Jeff Trandahl. “Through its investments in the Power of Flight program, Southern Company supports a unique and effective approach to restoring our native crane population.”

Southern Company and NFWF are presenting sponsors of Operation Migration’s daily EarlyBird e-bulletin. To subscribe, send your name and e-mail address to EarlyBird and include “Operation Migration” in the subject field. Additional updates, including flyover location details, are available at the Operation Migration website.

Power of Flight, which funds projects to conserve birds characteristic of the southern United States, is one of Southern Company’s three main environmental stewardship programs in conjunction with NFWF and other partners. Southern Company also works to restore the South’s longleaf pine ecosystem through Longleaf Legacy and to support community watershed conservation through Five Star Restoration.

Combined, these programs have restored or enhanced more than 500,000 acres of forest and habitat in the Southeast and exposed hundreds of thousands of people to conservation messages and education.

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. Because of 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 more than 11,000 grants to more than 3,800 organizations in the United States and abroad and leveraged more than $529 million in federal funds into over $1.8 billion for conservation.

With 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast. A leading U.S. producer of electricity, Southern Company is the parent firm of electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications companies. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are below the national average. Southern Company was named the World’s Most Admired Electric and Gas Utility by Fortune magazine in 2011, and is consistently listed among the top U.S. electric service providers in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Visit our website at www.southerncompany.com.

SOURCE Southern Company

Source: PR Newswire