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Female stork shot mistakenly by hunter in western Japan

The female of this pair of storks in this undated photo was fatally shot by a hunter in the city of Unnan, Shimane Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of the Unnan Municipal Board of Education)

MATSUE, Japan (Kyodo) -- A female stork, a species designated as a special national treasure, was killed Friday as a hunter shot it by accident in Shimane Prefecture, western Japan, police and a local education board said Friday.

    According to the education board, one member of a local hunting group shot the stork, believing it was a heron.

    The Unnan city education board confirmed that the 5-year-old stork had laid eggs in March and that four chicks have hatched so far. Since wild storks disappeared in 1971, this was only the second such hatching in the wild that was not part of an ongoing breeding project in and around Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture.

    Storks -- large black and white birds with long beaks, necks and legs -- have been breeding in the wild since 2007 around Toyooka, where a major stork rearing facility called the Hyogo Park of the Oriental White Stork is located.

    Satoshi Yamagishi, head of the Hyogo park, called the accident "very regrettable."

    "I can guess how local people waiting for the fledging feel," Yamagishi said, adding he hopes a remaining chick grows up safely.

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