A group of endangered northern bald ibis made a special trip from ZSL London Zoo to Spain last week as part of an international conservation project to reintroduce them to the wild.
The juvenile ibis – nicknamed Iris, Indigo, Igor and Ivan by ZSL keepers – travelled to a holding aviary in Jerez Zoo ahead of a planned release in Southern Spain. The birds will join ibis bred at other zoos across Europe, before being gradually introduced to life in the wild.
The birds will be encouraged to form bonds with the group and fend for themselves before their release into an area of ecological significance in Andalucia, populated with vast grasslands, arable fields, and water sources – ideal habitats for the unique birds.
ZSL London Zoo bird keeper Paul Atkin said: “I’ve been working with the breeding population of these remarkable birds at ZSL London Zoo for nearly twenty years, so it’s a real joy to be working alongside zoos across Europe as part of their reintroduction in Spain.
“The birds will be released into the huge agricultural area of La Janda, which has been the hub of European conservation efforts to reintroduce the species since the project’s inception in 2004.
“We’re really hopeful that they’ll go on to breed in the wild – ultimately securing the future of the species.”
The northern bald ibis is a distinctive looking bird, with a bare red face, neck and throat. This species of ibis once spanned Europe, but is now only found in one small area in Morocco. Conservationists estimate that only 600 northern bald ibis remains in the wild after the species disappeared from Europe almost 300 years ago.
For more information on the conservation work of ZSL go to www.zsl.org