Rare breeding success for China's endangered crested ibis

Few endangered species are experiencing rising populations. But the crested ibis (nipponia nippon) is a rare species on the right track.

Crested ibises once had a habitat spreading thousands of miles from China to Russia, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Over the years, though, hunting and habitat loss took their toll, and the species disappeared from most of its former range.

But in 1981, the last seven crested ibises in the wild were discovered in China. Following more than 25 years of intense conservation efforts, that number now stands at more than 1,000. The population is almost evenly split between those living in captivity and in the wild.

Last May, 26 crested ibises, which had been bred in captivity, were returned to the wild. Five of those 26 died, three disappeared, and six flew back to their breeding center. The remaining 12, though, are doing well, and now two of them have produced a nest of three hatchlings. If they survive, the hatchlings could be able to fly in less than a month, and help to further grow the wild population in northwest China's Shanxi Province.

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species currently ranks the crested ibis as Endangered, a downlisting from the "Critically Endangered" status it held in 1994. It says that if population trends continue to increase, the species may warrant a further status downlisting to "Vulnerable." Let's hope these latest chicks help keep that uptrend going.

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