Chester Zoo is cock-a-hoop after becoming the first zoo in Britain to successfully hatch four Javan green magpies.
The zoo has provided a real shot in the arm for the future conservation of the rare species. The major concern is that the birds will become extinct as they are now confined to one area of their native Indonesian forests. Chester Zoo has been working hand in hand with conservation partners, Cikananga Wildlife Centre and Taman Safari, Indonesia to add to the Javan green magpie numbers in the world. It began last year when six pairs of the birds arrived from Java to establish a European conservation breeding and insurance centre for the species in case it disappeared in the wild.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed this strain of magpie as “critically endangered.” However, since that declaration, there is concern that with no sighting reported recently of the birds in their natural habitat, they may have come even closer to extinction in the wild. Against this background, the achievement of the hatch at Chester has uplifted spirits among conservationists.
The zoo’s curator of birds, Andrew Owen, said that while he felt privileged in the past to work with rare and beautiful birds, the Javan green magpies were the most precious simply because they are now one of the most endangered species anywhere on earth. In the six years the zoo has been involved with partners in Java, this type of magpie has virtually disappeared in the wild due to captures by illegal traders, he said. Mr. Owen described the hatching as a “momentous occasion for us” and added that all four chicks have now fledged. Although the chicks have blue feathers at the moment, they will turn to apple green as they get older. He pointed out that every individual chick now at Chester could help save the species in the long term.
The new arrivals bring to eleven the total number of Javan green magpies at Chester Zoo. There are also 19 currently in Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre.