Four northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita), which hatched last year at ZSL London Zoo, have travelled to a holding aviary in Jerez Zoo this week ahead of a planned release to the wild.
The ibis, nicknamed Iris, Indigo, Igor and Ivan by ZSL keepers, will join birds from zoos across Europe. Together they will be encouraged to fend for themselves under the watchful eye of conservation experts before their release.
ZSL London Zoo bird keeper Paul Atkin said: “I’ve been working with the breeding population of these remarkable birds at ZSL London Zoo for nearly twenty years, so it’s a real joy to be working alongside zoos across Europe as part of their reintroduction in Spain.
“The birds will be released into the huge agricultural area of La Janda, which has been the hub of European conservation efforts to reintroduce the species since the project’s inception in 2004.
“We’re really hopeful that they’ll go on to breed in the wild - ultimately securing the future of the species.”
The northern bald ibis, a distinctive looking bird with a bare red face, neck and throat, was once widespread across Northern Africa and Europe, but pesticides, habitat loss and hunting has caused the population to decline to just 250 breeding wild adults.
Northern bald ibis are part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which aims to preserve a genetically diverse population of the species in zoos. This reintroduction project is a collaboration between EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), AIZA (Iberian Association of Zoos and Aquaria), ZSL London Zoo, Jerez Zoo, Bioparc de Doué la Fontaine and the Andalucian Government.
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