Twelve juvenile whooping cranes, reared in Maryland, Canada and New Orleans, were brought together in crates Tuesday to Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Grand Chenier.

[CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO.]

The birds were outfitted with color-coded bands and tracking devices before being released into a covered enclosure for observation and acclimation to the environment over the next three weeks. After the observation period, the birds will be moved to an adjacent uncovered area and will be allowed to live and fly freely in the wild.

Through a partnership between the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Audubon Nature Institute, Chevron and other funding sponsors, this group of birds brings Louisiana’s total number of whooping cranes in the wild to 72, and furthers efforts to bring the endangered species back from the brink of extinction.

Biologists, wildlife technicians and a veterinarian all wore white suits and helmets during the process to mimic the appearance of whooping cranes as they unloaded the birds from their crates, gave them a physical examinations, attached tracking transmitters to their legs and released them into the enclosure. The birds also wore hoods over their heads to reduce stress and to help keep them from acclimating to human interaction.