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A young crane swims his way to fitness

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Larry the young crane takes a swimLarry the young crane enjoying his swimExtra PE lessons are being given to a common crane to help him keep up with the rest of his classmates. 

'Lazy Larry' – as he has been nicknamed – stands out from the 24 birds being brought up at Crane School 2010 as he seems to lack a bit of get up and go.

While the rest of the class love nothing more than to stretch their long legs by having a run around outside Lazy Larry prefers to stand and watch the world go by.

It is essential that all cranes develop strong legs so they can cope with their burgeoning weight as they grow so he is being given two extra swimming lessons a day to ensure he keeps up with his classmates at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre.

Nigel Jarrett, Head of Conservation Breeding at WWT, said: “Each young crane has its own personality and traits. There is nothing wrong with Larry at all he just needs a bit of extra motivation to move about! There are times in our lives when we all need encouragement and I have no doubt that he will turn out to be just as active as the rest.
We are doing the extra swimming with him to make sure his bones grow long and strong and he is doing really well.”

Lazy Larry is one of the first wave of cranes which will be released into the wild later this year as part of the Great Crane Project, run jointly by RSPB, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, with major funding from Viridor Credits Environmental Company.

In total during the project around 100 will be released on the secret location in the Somerset Levels and Moors where conservationists hope they will thrive to form a breeding population.

At the moment the young cranes being reared at a purpose built facility at WWT Slimbridge are learning how to forage for food while getting plenty of exercise.

In a few weeks the cranes will be sexed and they start to be given lessons in how to socialise and in predator evasion.

Nigel added: “We reckon he is a boy, not because he is lazy, but just because he is actually the heaviest of all the cranes.  He weighs 500 grams and in the past there has been a correlation between weight of the young chicks and what sex they are with the boys being heaviest.”

Dedicated crane parents Roland Digby and Amy King give round the clock care and lessons to Lazy Larry and his 23 peers.

The project which has been in the planning for years had an abrupt start last month after the eggs had to be taken on an epic car journey across Europe after the giant ash cloud grounded all flights.

They hatched shortly after arrival back at Slimbridge and the cranes have been growing at a rate of almost a centimetre a day since then.

To learn more about Crane School 2010 come to hear one of the talks at WWT Slimbridge given daily at the weekends. You can also read up on the cranes’ latest progress and see pictures visit the website www.wwt.org.uk/craneschool2010.

- extracts from a press release from WWT on 12th May 2010. Picture credits: James Lees

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The lead feathery-fingered expert on the project with a long history of hatching and rearing wildfowl, and saving species from the brink of extinction through captive breeding and rearing programmes.  Nigel is based at WWT Slimbridge.