Critically Endangered Magpie Bred at Chester Zoo
October 11, 2016
Four Javan Green Magpies have hatched at Chester Zoo. This is the first time the world’s rarest Magpie has been bred in a UK zoo, which provides a major boost to conservation efforts to save this species from extinction.
Conservationists and bird staff at the Zoo are making every effort to try and save the species, which has been trapped to the very brink in its native Indonesian forests. Chester Zoo has been working with assistance from Taman Safari Indonesia and conservation partners, Cikananga Wildlife Centre.
In late 2015, six pairs of the birds were flown from Java, Indonesia to Chester to establish a conservation breeding and insurance population for the species in Europe, before the birds vanish in the wild altogether.
The Javan Green Magpie (Cissa thalassina) is native to western Java in Indonesia and inhabits dense montane forests. Their bright green plumage is attained through the food the birds eat: insects, frogs and lizards.
The species is listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but bird experts are warning that the situation may have worsened in recent months, amid fears that the rare Magpies may now be close to extinction in the wild, with no recent sightings reported.
However, the breeding of the four new chicks at Chester Zoo has given a huge lift to conservation efforts to save the birds. Andrew Owen, the Zoo’s Curator of Birds, explains the importance of the breeding successes, “I have had the privilege of working with many rare and beautiful birds, but none are more precious than the Javan Green Magpie: one of the world’s most endangered species.
“We’ve been working with our conservation partners in Java - the Cikananga Wildlife Centre - for more than six years. In that time we’ve seen Javan Green Magpies disappear almost completely from the wild as they are captured for the illegal bird trade. Huge areas of forests that were once filled with beautiful songbirds are falling silent.
“Knowing that our first pair had nested was a momentous occasion for us - seeing the first chick was even more special. All four chicks have now fledged and are currently sporting blue feathers, which will eventually turn apple green as they mature.
“So far we have successfully bred from two adult pairs and these four chicks are a vital addition to the worldwide population. Every individual we breed here could help save the species as the clock is ticking and time is running out.”
Mike Jordan, Collections Director at Chester Zoo, added, “The rapid decline of the Javan Green Magpie in the wild is due to on-going trapping pressures, agricultural intrusion and a continued loss of suitable forest habitat in west Java in Indonesia.
“We started the first ever European conservation breeding programme for the species when six pairs of Javan Green Magpies arrived in Chester in December last year. Our specialist team, in conjunction with two other top European zoos, is aiming to ensure their continued survival.
“Our long-term aim is to return birds bred here in the UK and Europe to the forests of Indonesia.”
The arrival of the four chicks brings the total number of Javan Green Magpies at Chester Zoo to eleven. The Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre currently has 19 birds, all under the expert care of Chester Zoo staff and local Indonesian experts.
Chester Zoo’s Act for Wildlife conservation campaign has recently launched a new initiative to raise vital funds to build new aviaries at the breeding centre in Java, which are in danger of collapse due to the destructive humidity and termites. Find more information here: http://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/act-for-wildlife Or here: www.actforwildlife.org.uk
More beautiful pics, below the fold!