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Pensthorpe celebrates the arrival of Dennis the Eurasian Crane's first chick





Pensthorpe Natural Park has announced the hatching of a chick by beloved Eurasian crane Dennis and his mate.

After several years of laying infertile eggs, this marks a joyous milestone for Dennis and his partner, making them proud parents at last.

Dennis has a unique and inspiring backstory. He began his life as an egg in Germany and was brought to the UK as part of the inaugural year of the Great Crane Project.

The two-day-old crane chick with a grasshopper. Picture: Paul Raddon
The two-day-old crane chick with a grasshopper. Picture: Paul Raddon

This ambitious five-year conservation initiative, a collaboration between Pensthorpe, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the RSPB, aimed to reintroduce Eurasian cranes to the Somerset Levels.

Over the years, 94 cranes were successfully released into the wild.

In 2010, Dennis was puppet-reared alongside other crane chicks for release.

The Eurasian Crane at Pensthorpe. Picture: Steve Adams
The Eurasian Crane at Pensthorpe. Picture: Steve Adams

However, he exhibited behaviours that indicated he would struggle to survive in the wild.

Upon closer observation, the team discovered Dennis had developed cataracts in both eyes, explaining his unusual behaviour.

Ground-breaking surgery was performed to remove the cataracts, though replacing the lens was not possible, resulting in impaired depth perception.

Despite this, Dennis adapted well and formed a strong bond with a female crane, affectionately known as Mrs Dennis.

The crane chick being fed. Picture: Jon Walker
The crane chick being fed. Picture: Jon Walker

For the past three years, Dennis and Mrs Dennis have built nests and laid eggs, although none were fertile.

This year, an exciting opportunity arose through a collaboration with WWT Washington Centre and Watatunga in Watlington.

WWT Washington had an egg which staff were unable to hatch, and Watatunga, eager to expand its Eurasian crane flock, sought assistance.

A crane at the nature reserve. Picture: Mike Powles
A crane at the nature reserve. Picture: Mike Powles

Pensthorpe stepped in, offering Dennis and Mrs Dennis the chance to foster the egg.

Chrissie Kelley, head of species management at Pensthorpe, said: "After carefully transporting the egg in a portable incubator, we swapped it with the infertile eggs Dennis had been incubating. To our delight, the egg hatched.”

Dennis' paternal instincts have shone brightly since the chick's arrival.

The Eurasian Crane at Pensthorpe. Picture: Steve Adams
The Eurasian Crane at Pensthorpe. Picture: Steve Adams

Despite his vision impairment, he has dedicated himself to guiding, nurturing and feeding the chick, demonstrating remarkable perseverance and adaptability.

Initially unsure, Mrs Dennis has now embraced parenthood, with both parents working together to care for their chick, affectionately named Dennis Junior, or DJ for short.

Chrissie added: "Dennis has done an extraordinary job. Watching him care for DJ, even with his unique challenges, is a testament to his dedication and resilience.

“It’s heart-warming to see the bond they share and the love and protection both parents provide."



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