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Last Updated: Friday August 18 2006 15:46 GMT

Rare birds to be given big boost

Common Crane

Once one of Britain's most noticable birds, cranes are being given a helping hand as plans are afoot to boost the population of this rare bird.

Eleven of the big feathered beasties are being looked after at Pensthorpe nature reserve in Norfolk, and it's hoped they can be put into the wild.

Up to 300 years ago, the 1.2m tall birds were common across the UK, but hunting and habitat loss hit them hard.

Experts hope to free the birds in 2009, after finding the best place to do so.

But in the meantime, they've got another problem.

Like a lot of youngsters, baby cranes get attached to anything that gives them food - in this case their keepers.

Afraid of people

But the cranes need to be afraid of humans so they have a better chance of surviving.

So, to make sure they're not getting too fond of people, the keepers have to dress up in giant crane suits!