Chester Zoo in bid to save world’s rarest bird species from extinction.
Six pairs of one of the world’s rarest bird species – the Javan green magpie – have been flown to Chester Zoo from Indonesia in a bid to save them from extinction.
Bird experts at the zoo hope to develop the first-ever captive breeding programme for the species outside of Indonesia in a last ditch attempt to ensure the continued survival of these highly threatened birds.
In Indonesia, a culture of keeping caged birds as a status symbol has seen huge areas of forest fall silent as millions of birds are taken from the wild. As the birds become rarer, their value increases, leaving many species on the brink of disappearing altogether.
The Javan green magpie is now believed to number less than 100 individuals in the wild and is listed as critically endangered by BirdLife International and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
For over five years, Chester Zoo has both financed and lent its expertise to its conservation partners in Indonesia, which have been running conservation initiatives working to breed the birds in their homeland and create safety net populations of the species threatened by the songbird crisis. But, with Javan green magpies being the main target of a series of recent break-ins at the breeding centre, the zoo and government officials in Indonesia have been forced to take drastic action and move 12 of the birds to Europe.
The zoo’s curator of birds, Andrew Owen, explains:
“We really are fighting against time to save the incredibly rare Javan green magpie from extinction. Sadly, there is evidence that the species is fast disappearing in the wild as they have fallen victim to the pet trade and an ever shrinking habitat. In fact, they have only been found once in the last 10 years in the wild by ornithologists.
By bringing twelve of the birds to the UK, we are hoping our new conservation breeding programme will begin to address the desperate plight of this species and ensure a protected population for the future.
We’ve been working with the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre in Java for five years and our mission to track down the birds with the beautiful green plumage has included trawling markets and interviewing traders. Over time we have managed to rescue a handful of birds and set up a breeding centre and, together, we have been successful in breeding the birds on their country of origin. However, so prized are they in Java, the breeding centre has suffered from a number of break-ins – the magpies being a prime target given their beauty and increasing value on the pet trade.”
Javan green magpie facts
- Scientific name: Cissa thalassina
- The birds are native to western Java in Indonesia and inhabit dense montane forests
- The bright green plumage is attained through the food the birds eat – insects, frogs and lizards
- Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre, which Chester Zoo supports both financially and technically in Java, bred its first Javan green magpie in 2013