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Sichuan takes on recovery, repopulation of critically endangered crested ibis

(People's Daily Online)    15:05, February 09, 2017
Sichuan takes on recovery, repopulation of critically endangered crested ibis
crested ibis (Photo/West China City Daily)

In a breeding base at the foot of Mount Emei, ornithologists and biologists are carrying out a huge operation to bring crested ibises back to Sichuan province. Fifty of the creatures were introduced into the breeding base at the end of 2016. Breeding season is now approaching, and baby crested ibises will be born next month.

The 50 crested ibises currently at the base come from Henan, Zhejiang and Shaanxi provinces. According to Xiong Tieyi, a chief expert at Sichuan Provincial Academy of Natural Resource Sciences and head of the Mount Emei Biological Resources and Experiment Station, the crested ibis is one of the world’s most endangered species, in addition to being listed as an "international protected bird" by the International Association of Birds. Known as a "treasure of the East" and an "Oriental gem," the bird is as rare as the giant panda.

"At one time, Sichuan was the only habitat for crested ibises in southwestern China. The reintroduction of the bird will rebuild this species in Sichuan province," said Xiong. Crested ibises mainly eat small fish, shrimp, loaches and insects. They are timid creatures that are easily frightened, and prone to losing their appetites for up to several weeks after a stranger enters their midst.

Preparation work for the reintroduction of crested ibises took approximately four years.

"Based on current development, the crested ibises are scheduled to be made available for viewing by the public starting on May 1, 2018," said Xiong. In two years, it is estimated that the number of crested ibises at the base will approach 100.

"If this batch of crested ibises manages to settle in smoothly, [the program] will become another model for protecting highly endangered species, following that for giant pandas," Xiong added.

At present, there are about 2,500 crested ibises in China. The crested ibis used to be common in Japan, China, Korea, and Russia. It has now disappeared from most of its former habitats. 


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