When the proposal was advanced to round up the two or three dozen wild whooping cranes that remain in existence and seclude them in zoos to safeguard them, Robert Allen, research director of the National Audubon Society, balked. "What use," he asked, "is a symbol of America's open spaces behind bars?" The cranes were left to their wild ways.
Allen, an energetic, cigar-smoking ornithologist, has devoted most of his adult life to the cause of saving America's threatened bird species. His field research has taken him from Alaska to Yucatan. His monographs on the roseate spoonbill, the flamingo and the whooping crane stand as major studies of creatures in the wild.
In the course of his work Allen has made almost as many friends for himself as for his birds. He even got an oil company to spend extra money on a longer access road so his whooping cranes, wintering near Corpus Christi, Texas, would not be disturbed. Last week, after 30 years as Audubon research chief, Allen retired. He will be fighting for his birds—as a private citizen—as hard as ever, but he also plans to take up fishing; he never had time before.