A pair of short-tailed albatross -- birds facing extinction that have been designated by the government as a special national treasure, and are now being artificially bred -- have successfully laid and hatched an egg for the first time on the island of Mukojima in the Ogasawara Islands, the Environment Ministry and the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology announced on Jan. 15.
Researchers discovered the chick when they visited the island on Jan. 9. It appeared to have hatched five to 10 days earlier, and its biological gender is unknown.
The chick's parents are a male that migrated to Mukojima in 2008, and a female that is believed to have been born in the Senkaku Islands of Okinawa Prefecture.
There are two domestic breeding grounds for the birds: the volcanic island of Torishima in the Izu Islands, where there are a total of around 3,900 birds; as well as around 200 birds in the Senkaku Islands. Due to the danger of extinction if a volcanic eruption struck Torishima, and the difficulties for ongoing research posed by China's claim to the Senkaku Islands, however, the Environment Ministry moved 70 of the birds from Torishima to a new breeding area on Mukojima in 2008.
Around 10 of the 70 birds on Mukojima returned after leaving the nest -- further raising hopes they would produce offspring on the island some 1,000 kilometers from Tokyo.
"If more than 10 pairs of the birds can successfully hatch an egg, we will be able to regard (Mukojima) as a stable breeding location," commented Kiyoaki Ozaki, who works with the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology.