BARABOO—The International Crane Foundation is the only place on earth where every crane species can be viewed at a single location.

The nonprofit’s 300-acre headquarters just north of Baraboo is home to wildlife exhibits that showcase the world’s 15 crane species. In nature, the large, migratory birds inhabit five continents and fly across deserts, mountains, frozen tundra and hundreds of international borders each year.

ICF staff will teach visitors about programs the organization has launched to save and protect cranes and their ecosystems around the globe during its 18th annual Cranes of the World Festival this weekend.

“We want to inspire our community to recognize the importance of cranes on our landscape, along with the important conservation work that the International Crane Foundation does, and let people know how they can be a part of that effort as well,” said ICF Visitor Program Manager Cully Shelton.

Guided tours of ICF headquarters will take place throughout the celebration Saturday. “Cranes of the World” tours will depart from the Cudahy Visitor Center at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ICF interpretive naturalist Paige Hall said the tours will last about two hours and provide information on each crane species, along with the organization’s efforts to protect the birds and their habitats.

Hall said a “Cranes and Culture” tour also will take place at 3 p.m. She said the late afternoon program will differ slightly from earlier tours, demonstrating how cranes have influenced culture and public policy in Africa and Asia. Hall said ICF’s conservation efforts on the continents often transcend international borders.

“It focuses on how those birds have influenced the cultures of the places where they’re native to,” she said. “They go beyond political boundaries, as does our work.”

The day will be filled with fun activities for families as well. Guests can learn how to fold origami cranes at craft tables, ICF staff will make balloon animals for kids and visitors can work with caretakers to make special treats for the cranes. Children also can participate in a scavenger hunt and fill out a cranes of the world passport as they find answers to questions throughout the crane exhibits. Children who complete the challenge will be awarded a special surprise.

Naturalist, humorist and educator David Stokes will return. He’ll take the stage at the Wattled Crane Amphitheatre at 1 and 2 p.m. Stokes is a regional naturalist who uses live animals in his presentations. Visitors can expect to hear songs, stories and see a variety of live animals.

“He brings snakes and turtles and frogs for families and children to interact with,” Shelton said. “He also tells a bit more about how those creatures are actually essential for cranes and wetlands and a healthy ecosystem.”

Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate Karla Huston will make a special appearance at the Whooping Crane exhibit as well. From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., Huston will read poems from ICF’s “Poetry in the Prairie” competition, talk about the power of poetry and the inspiration nature provides her with.

Shelton said the festival will ultimately allow ICF to reach out and become more involved with the Baraboo community.

“We want our community to come together to learn more about the exciting conservation work of the International Crane Foundation and experience all 15 crane species from around the world,” he said.

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

Baraboo News Republic Reporter