Cajun singer and songwriter Zachary Richard says whooping cranes are important to Louisiana, and people should help protect them.

He’s made a 30-second television spot about the endangered birds for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The agency says it’s scheduled for distribution later this month.

There are only about 600 of the elegant 5-foot-tall birds in the world. They’re all descendants of 15 that once lived in Texas.

Louisiana is trying to create a flock in the general area where the birds once lived. Officials say it could take 15 to 20 years to reach the goal of at least 25 to 30 productive pairs, or about 130 cranes in the state.

Richard doesn’t identify himself in the TV spot, which shows only whooping cranes. It opens with a group of brown-and-white juveniles. Shortly after Richard begins his voiceover, a Cajun fiddle starts in the background and a white adult with black wingtips is shown soaring overhead.

“Whooping cranes are back in Louisiana and Wildlife and Fisheries needs your help as they expand their range,” Richard says. “The cranes are one of the most magnificent species in the world and face many natural challenges in the wild.”

He says people can also hurt them. Richard asks those who see a whooping crane to watch it from a distance, and to call the department if they see anyone doing something illegal.

A grant from Chevron paid for the spot, according to a department news release.

“Zachary Richard’s support for this project is greatly appreciated and we hope his message furthers the department’s efforts to protect whooping cranes, especially during these critical early years of the reintroduction project,” said Robert Love, administrator for the department’s coastal and nongame resources division.

The state has released 64 juveniles at White Lake near Gueydan since early 2011, and 40 are alive. The 24 deaths include six shootings.

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Online:

The spot: http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/whooping-cranes