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George Archibald

Photo of George Archibald.
Dr. George Archibald

Award-winning pioneer, conservation icon and co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, George Archibald has cultivated and revolutionized the preservation of rare crane species and their wetland habitats. Archibald was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada, on July 13, 1946. One of Archibald's earliest memories of his New Glasgow home occurred when he crawled after a female duck and her brood. He has followed birds ever since.

As a student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Archibald spent his summers as a bird bander, aviculturist and park naturalist in game farms and parks throughout Canada. After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree in 1968, he moved on to graduate work in the United States, earning his doctorate at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Archibald's world travels began in 1972 when the New York Zoological Society sponsored his field research on cranes in Japan and Australia. While in Japan, he spearheaded a campaign to protect marshes on the Japanese island of Hokkaido to save the nesting grounds of a flock of endangered red-crowned cranes.

Archibald returned to the United States in 1973 to co-found the International Crane Foundation, currently located in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The foundation emerged at a perilous time for cranes, when many of the 15 remaining species were on the brink of extinction. Archibald and Ron Sauey, a colleague from Cornell University, started the foundation in a horse barn owned by Sauey's parents. When they began, little was known about the breeding biology of cranes, with some species never having been hatched in captivity. Sauey and Archibald worked to create a "species bank" for captive cranes, reasoning that breeding cranes in captivity was one important step toward safeguarding them in the wild.

Through the International Crane Foundation, Archibald continued to research and collaborate with colleagues around the world. Because of his efforts, Archibald not only discovered white-naped cranes on their wintering grounds, but he also led a successful campaign to save the Han River estuary, a critical wintering and migratory area located in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. In fact, his efforts have led to the conservation of more than 5 million hectares of wetlands in Asia, mostly in China and Russia. Archibald also helped to implement conservation-education programs among local people in remote regions of Africa, Australia and Eurasia. During his career, Archibald has studied the ecology of eight species of cranes in Australia, Bhutan, China, Iran, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States, and has organized more than 900 researchers working with cranes in more than 60 nations.

Archibald has pioneered several techniques to rear cranes in human care, such as having human handlers wear crane costumes to avoid human imprinting and using ultra-light aircraft to lead cranes on migration. One of Archibald's most notable legacies will be with the North American Whooping Crane population. Down to their last 15 birds in the 1940s, whooping cranes were long in danger of extinction. Archibald spent three years with a human-imprinted whooping crane named Tex, dressing like and acting as a male crane — walking, calling, dancing — to shift her into reproductive condition. Through his dedication and the use of artificial insemination, Tex eventually laid a fertile egg. Her offspring, named "Gee Whiz," went on to produce seven offspring of his own. The story of Archibald and Tex brought fame to the foundation's captive breeding program. Contributions poured in, helping scientists grow the North American Whooping Crane population into hundreds of cranes. People from all walks of life recognize Archibald as the man who danced with a crane.

Today George Archibald is known globally as the world's leading scientific authority on cranes, and he has received numerous awards and honors worldwide. The United Nations placed him on the Global 500 Roll of Honor for Environmental Achievement, and he was inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame for 2006.

The Wisconsin Historical Society celebrated the lifetime achievement of George Archibald, along with four other individuals with Wisconsin ties, during the History Makers Gala in Milwaukee on Wednesday, May 9, 2007. Archibald received Wisconsin Historical Society's 2007 Aldo Leopold Award for Distinction in Environment and Conservation.

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