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Javan Green Magpies: Extremely Rare Birds Relocated To Safe Home in UK Zoo

Dec 30, 2015 03:03 PM EST

With less than 100 Javan green magpies remaining in the wild and captivity, the U.K.'s Chester Zoo is taking in six pairs of these rare birds in a desperate final attempt to save them from extinction.

"We really are fighting against time to save the incredibly rare Javan green magpie from extinction. Sadly, there is evidence that the species is fast disappearing in the wild as they have fallen victim to the pet trade and an ever-shrinking habitat," Andrew Owen, the zoo's curator of birds, said in a statement. "In fact, they have only been found once in the last 10 years in the wild by ornithologists."

The Javan green magpie is native to Indonesia and prized for its beautiful plumage and bird song. Their bright green plumage is procured through the food they eat: insects, frogs and lizards. When captured, these birds – among others commonly caged as pets in Indonesia – don't survive very long, BBC reports. For more than five years, conservationists have been breeding these birds in captivity to create what they call "safety net" populations. When the birds were first brought to the zoo, they spent six weeks in quarantine before being released into a larger area that resembles their natural habitat and is scattered with locus.  

As the birds become rarer, their value increases. Following a series of recent break-ins at the breeding center, Indonesian government officials have opted to move 12 of the birds to Europe where experts at Chester Zoo hope to create the first ever captive breeding program outside Indonesia.

"By bringing 12 of the birds to the U.K., we are hoping our new conservation breeding program will begin to address the desperate plight of this species and ensure a protected population for the future," Owen continued.

Forests have fallen silent, as millions of these birds have been poached. Rapid, widespread population declines prompted BirdLife International and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list Javan green magpies (Cissa thalassina) as critically endangered.

"The situation is desperate but we're certainly not giving up and that's why we are committed to supporting our partners in Java and have now brought these beautiful birds to Chester. The new breeding program is quite probably the only viable way of securing their future in the short term," Owen concluded. "It will be incredibly hard to change the culture of people keeping song birds in small cages but, with more education, awareness and protection of suitable secure habitat, we hope we can one day return this beautiful species to the wild."

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