Sandy, Humane Indiana Wildlife’s sandhill crane, now lives at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Sandy was admitted to Valparaiso-based Humane Indiana Wildlife in late 2023. Due to a wing injury, she had been in rehabilitation for five years at another wildlife center in Indiana. Sandy’s injury caused a 10% loss in wing length.
Although Sandy was active and in high spirits, she was unable to fly. She couldn’t be released to nature. Humane Indiana began searching for a permanent home for her.
Humane Indiana worked to find zoos with other sandhill cranes. Sandhill cranes have specific needs and diets. They want to be around other cranes. The Smithsonian National Zoo contacted Humane Indiana and offered Sandy a home.
“Due to her injury, Sandy had been in captivity for five years and was growing accustomed to being around people during this time,” said Nicole Harmon, director of wildlife rehabilitation and education at Humane Indiana, in a press release. “We knew a zoological setting would be the best fit for her. … The Smithsonian gave her a new lease on life.”
Humane Indiana hosted a farewell celebration for Sandy in mid-January.
“This is an incredibly unforgettable moment,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, CEO of Humane Indiana. “We are grateful to be a part of Sandy's journey and to assist with placing her in an environment suitable for the distinct needs of a sandhill crane.”
Members of Humane Indiana escorted Sandy to Washington, D.C. Sandy traveled in a crate built to precise specifications, using blueprints from the International Crane Foundation. Her journey went smoothly. She was quiet, except for an occasional loud honk – the trademark call of sandhill cranes.
Upon arriving at the zoo, Sandy was weighed. She ate specially made food and explored her new space. She foraged, tossed and played with straws. Sandy will live with two other sandhill cranes in an enclosure with a pond and stream.
The Humane Indiana Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center admits about 3,000 birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians yearly. They help 25,000 injured, orphaned or homeless animals annually through shelter, adoption, foster care, a veterinary clinic and a pet food pantry.