The global population of crested ibis has surpassed 10,000 after 42 years of protection, an official from the Shaanxi Forestry Bureau said on Thursday during a conference in Hanzhong, Shaanxi province.
The rare bird was once widely distributed in East Asia, but its numbers declined due to environmental pollution and human activities. In 1981, a team from the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found only traces of seven crested ibises in Shaanxi's Yangxian county.
Over the next three years, bird expert Liu Yinzeng traveled to more than 260 historically known distribution sites across several provinces, covering a distance of over 50,000 kilometers, to locate crested ibises. Finally, in Yangxian county, his team discovered a pair of adult crested ibises nesting in a tree with three chicks and two older ibises nearby.
In 1990, the Crested Ibis Captive Breeding and Conservation Center was established in Yangxian county to increase the population and genetic diversity of the species.
The center developed artificial breeding techniques for the bird, including artificial insemination, hatching, chick rearing and training.
In 2004, China launched a program to reintroduce crested ibises into the wild in Yangxian county. The released birds adapted well in the wild and mated and reproduced with the wild population.
Multiple wild release programs have been conducted in provinces including Shaanxi, Gansu and Hubei. As of now, the population of the bird in Shaanxi province alone has reached 6,654 individuals.
Liu Yinzeng told local media in Shaanxi that he was surprised at the achievement of the crested ibis population exceeding 10,000 globally within a short span of forty years.