SADO, Niigata -- A crested ibis chick born to wild birds on the island of Sado in Niigata Prefecture appears to be healthy, officials from the Ministry of the Environment said on April 22.
Ministry officials said that the chick's "bill is pointing straight upward, and the bird appears to be strong overall." They added that it is believed to have been born sometime on or after April 20 in a nest that had been built in a pine grove at a height of around 10 meters.
On April 21, the newborn ibis was seen sticking out its beak to receive food from its parents. It was then observed on April 22 being more active than it had been the day before, and was also confirmed that same day to have feathers. The sex of the chick is unknown, ministry officials said.
Veterinarian Yoshinori Kaneko, who has been involved in crested ibis conservation efforts for the past 25 years, said that the chick "appeared to weigh around 80 grams," and added that "it would likely be known after April 23 whether or not any additional chicks had been born."
Ministry officials said that while the parents of the chick had paired off last year, three of the four additional pairs are mating this season for the first time ever, and are incubating their eggs.
"We are hoping that incubation will continue, and we plan to keep a close watch," an official said.
The Japanese crested ibis went extinct in Japan in 2003. The newborn chick represents the third generation. The second generation includes artificially bred birds that the environment ministry began releasing into the wild in 2008.
The fact that a crested ibis pair has now succeeded in breeding in the wild without any assistance from human beings marks a significant step toward the bird's full comeback.
There are around 150 wild ibis nationwide, most of which inhabit Sado Island. Environment ministry officials say that once the population has reached 220, it should continue to increase naturally without need of human intervention.
Niigata University conservation ecology professor Hisashi Nagata notes, however, "Although the numbers are on the rise, the increase is merely the result of having released wild birds. If the release program stops, figures show that the bird will again go extinct in 50 years."
He adds, "While the survival rate of ibis on Sado Island is high, the problem of a low breeding rate remains."