2008-05-04 21:00:14 China Daily
BEIJING, May 5 -- The crested ibis, an endangered species, is once again thriving in the wild following a year of experiments in an artificial feeding environment, wildlife conservation authorities said on Saturday.
The State Forestry Administration (SFA) said in an email newsletter that a pair of artificially bred red ibises, among the first batch of 26 released into the wild a year ago in northwest China, had successfully produced three chicks.
"Their births mark China's breakthrough in wild breeding of crested ibises," according to the SFA note.
Conservation workers have been leaving food near the hatchlings' habitat to ensure they have access to proper nutrition. They have also taken protective measures such as wrapping trees with plastic cloth to ward off snakes.
It has been reported that 13 pairs of artificially-bred red ibises, aged two to three years, were released on May 31 last year at Zhaigou village, Ningshan, Shaanxi province, in an area with dense populations of loach, eel and fingerlings, typical prey of the red ibis.
Monitoring showed that 12 birds had adapted to the wild, and six flew back to the conservation base. Five were confirmed dead and three missing.
Wildlife authorities plan to release another batch of red ibises into the wild at the end of this month or in the beginning of June.
The crested ibis was common in China, Russia, Japan and the Korean peninsula before the 1970s. With an average length of 80 cm and weighing 1,800 g, the white-feathered, red-faced bird lives in rice fields and feeds on aquatic insects.
For years, none of the birds were seen in the wild, and then seven were found in Yangxian county, Shaanxi province, in 1981. A protection zone was soon established there.
In 1989, Chinese scientists successfully hatched the rare birds in captivity. By the end of 2007, the population of the birds in China exceeded 1,000, of which, more than 550 were living in the wild, SFA figures showed.
Meanwhile, China has also been cooperating with Japan to protect red ibises. Japan has 97 birds in captivity and also plans to free some of them into the wild this year.
(Source: China Daily)