Near-extinct and ‘extremely precious’ kingfishers to be released into the wild

4 “extraordinarily valuable” kingfisher hatchlings from a species that’s nearing extinction are to be released into the wild subsequent 12 months with the assist of a British zookeeper.

Hen keeper Claire McSweeney at Whipsnade Zoo in Dunstable was taken to Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas, US, as a part of the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) sihek restoration venture to assist specialists hand rear the Guam kingfishers – which have been as soon as classed as extinct in the wild.

A day after Ms McSweeney landed in America in June, the eggs started to hatch and she has since been caring for the chicks “round the clock”.

“I flew to America in early June and the subsequent day the eggs began to hatch – since then it’s been go, go, go,” she mentioned.

“We’ve been caring for the uncommon chicks round the clock, feeding, monitoring and weighing them to guarantee they’re in the better of well being.”

Ms McSweeney described the birds as “extraordinarily valuable” as there are mentioned to be les than 150 wild Guam kingfishers in the world at this time.

“Aside from these 4, fluffy, brown chicks, there are solely 137 Guam kingfishers or sihek, as they’re identified to the Chamoru folks, in the complete world,” she mentioned.

“These little hatchlings are extraordinarily valuable as ZSL and its companions work in direction of rising the inhabitants and introducing sihek again into the wild.”

The kingfishers are endemic to Guam, a small US territory positioned in the Pacific ocean, and are identified for his or her dusty, orange feathers and putting blue wings.

The birds have been categorised as extinct in the wild in 1988 following the unintentional introduction of brown tree snakes 40 years prior, considerably lowering the variety of sihek on the island.

Efforts are underway to scale back the unfold of the brown tree snakes, however their inhabitants on Guam have have grown to greater than two million, and now the threatened birds stay in the care of people.

The sihek restoration venture hopes to launch 9 chicks onto Palmyra Atoll, an island simply south of Hawaii, subsequent 12 months.

It would repeat this yearly till 20 siheks set up as breeding pairs in a bid to increase the first wild-born sihek chicks since the Eighties.

John Ewen, senior analysis fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology and sihek restoration workforce chair, mentioned conservation is important to “develop the fowl’s inhabitants” and see the threatened species “flourish”.

“With out conservation zoos, species like the sihek wouldn’t exist,” he mentioned.

“In the Eighties there have been solely a handful of sihek left in the world, now, thanks to experience from zookeepers like Claire, there are 137 throughout the United States.”

“Our objective is to proceed to develop the fowl’s inhabitants and introduce the sihek into a predator-free zone subsequent 12 months on the totally protected Palmyra Atoll – a brief house the place they’ll flourish in the wild earlier than their hopeful return to a snake-free Guam.”

Ms McSweeney has intently monitored the chicks to guarantee they’ve “the strongest attainable begin” to their new lives in the wild.

“The chicks, which presently weigh round 50g, are having fun with a nutritious food regimen of mice, however in the forests of Palmyra Atoll they are going to have to be taught to hunt and forage for every little thing from bugs to geckos,” she defined.

“We’re coaching them to affiliate feeding time with a whistle, in order that in the event that they wrestle settling in, our workforce on the floor can blow a whistle and the birds will know the place to go to discover meals.

“We would like to ensure they’ve the strongest attainable begin to their new lives and can flourish of their wild properties – preparations begin now.”

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