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Captive Bred Ibis Released into the Wild
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China on Thursday released 26 captive-bred red ibis in Shaanxi Province, the first time it has released the endangered species into the wild.



The 13 pairs, aged two to three-years-old, were freed at Zhaigou village, Ningshan county, in an area densely populated with loach, eel and fingerlings, typical prey of the red ibis.


"They are young and robust with strong reproduction and survival capabilities in the wild," said an expert in charge of the project.


The birds had undergone three months of training in a similar environment to develop wild instincts before their release, according to the expert.


To better adapt to natural environment, they were transported in March to Zhaigou village from the Shaanxi wild animal protection and feeding center in Zhouzhi county, said Lu Baozhong, a red ibis protection expert.


Lu said he was optimistic about the birds' survival prospects.


Local farmers have stopped using fertilizer in their croplands to ensure the safety of their food stocks, said Lu.


Experts will use wireless tracking and video monitoring systems to monitor their progress.


One of the most endangered species in the world, the red ibis were once widely found in China, Russia and Japan, but have been on the verge of extinction since the 1950s.


Chinese experts discovered seven wild red ibis in Yangxian county in Shaanxi in May 1981, believed to be the only wild red ibis living in the world at that time.


The local government banned hunting, firing guns, timber felling and poison bait traps in red ibis habitats.


The central government launched a protection project for red ibis in 1993 and built three breeding centers in Shaanxi and Beijing.


Their habitats were listed as protection areas.


The number of red ibis has surpassed 1,000, including 512 artificially bred birds in China.


More releases would be carried out in Shaanxi, Henan and Hubei provinces where the species once lived, experts say.


(Xinhua News Agency June 1, 2007)

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