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Endangered Ibises to have more homes
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-14 00:35

Ibises, endangered rare birds found only in China, will benefit from several new protection areas in addition to their one current reserve in Yangxian County, in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

A trial project aimed at sending the birds to different reserves is underway in order to better protect the rare birds from sudden disasters, such as large scale epidemic disease, water pollution and dangerous weather which could send the birds into extinction if the disaster were to strike their only habitat, said Duan Xiaohui, an official with Shaanxi Provincial Forestry Bureau.

The project is being organized by the State Forestry Bureau which has been striving to find new ways to better protect the rare birds since 2001. The project calls for six new protected habitats for the birds located in eastern Zhejiang, central Henan and northwestern Gansu provinces and in northern, central and southern Shaanxi.

Duan said all the new habitats for the rare birds will be built in zones with dense forests, varied vegetation, rivers and natural and artificial wetlands.

"The Tongchuan trial zone for the birds on the Weibei Tableland in northern Shaanxi, which has been approved by Shaanxi Provincial Forestry Bureau, for instance, is a place with all conditions above mentioned," the provincial forestry official said.

With a total area of 750 square kilometres, there are dense forests, rivers and wetlands in the new reserve for the rare birds in Weibei Tableland, and there are also some other big birds, such as black storks and herons who need the similar living conditions as ibises, the official said.

At present, Shaanxi has decided on three other locations in the province to build new habitat areas for the ibises, and has delivered an investigation report to the State Forestry Bureau. "If the report is approved, the project can be carried out later next month," Duan said.

According to the project plan, every new reserve will receive six pairs of the rare birds artificially bred by Shaanxi Louguantai Wild Animal Breeding and Protection Centre.

"These birds will be sent to the wild in the newly built habitat areas after a period of artificial rearing and training for wild living, and at the same time, protection outposts will be established in the proposed habitat areas," the forest official said.

The ibis, a rare water bird with white feathers and a red head, used to be seen in China, Russia, the Korea Peninsula, and Japan. However, since the 1970s the bird has not been spotted in these places except China. It is one of the most endangered birds in the world.

In May 1981, Chinese scientists found seven ibises that had reproducing capacity and two nests in Yangxian County, Shaanxi Province. A reserve was soon built to protect the rare birds in the county.

After a 23-year effort made by central and local governments and scientists, the number of the birds has increased from seven to over 500 in Yangxian.

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