Birds bordering on extinction breed in Colchester

30 July 2010, 14:10 | Updated: 30 July 2010, 14:39

A pair of one of the world's most endangered birds have managed to breed at Essex's biggest zoo.

There's now 2 Waldrapp Ibis chicks at Colchester - their species is just one step away from extinction.

The Waldrapp Ibis has been listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1994, the highest level possible next to total extinction or extinction in the wild.  The species has undergone a long term decline in numbers resulting in a very small population left in the wild. The recent decline in numbers is due to a number of threats, including hunting, loss of habitat with disturbance of cliff breeding areas as well as overgrazing and firewood harvesting which has reduced the quality of habitat in feeding areas.

The Waldrapp Ibis has an average lifespan of 24 years, egg laying in the species usually occurs from March to April with the female often laying 2 – 4 eggs. Populations of the species have been found in Morocco and Syria.

BirdLife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have been working alongside local people to research and monitor this enigmatic species. A major step has been to train and manage a team of wardens in Morocco to monitor breeding and roosting sites, prevent disturbance by tourists or fishermen, collect information, and to make local people aware of the significance of the species.

Anthony Tropeano, Colchester Zoo’s Zoological Director also sits on the committee which manages the Waldrapp Ibis European breeding programme.  He said, “ Colchester Zoo is very pleased to have been able to contribute to the continued existence of this critically endangered species.  In 2008 we bred a pair of chicks and we very much hope that these chicks continue to do well and we can ensure the survival of this species in the future.”