Exmoor Zoo breeds first baby ibis in UK

The baby ibis at Exmoor Zoo. The baby ibis at Exmoor Zoo.

Thursday, June 12, 2014
3:30 PM

The birds will undergo a transformation as they grow up at their home in Exmoor Zoo.

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The baby ibis will undergo a transformation to look like this.The baby ibis will undergo a transformation to look like this.

EXMOOR Zoo has celebrated the arrival of some very special arrivals – the first ever southern bald ibis born in the UK.

The birds, known by their Latin name geronticus calvus, are usually found in the highlands of southern Africa with less than 2,000 breeding pairs.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified these birds as vulnerable and has serious doubts about their survival in the wild.

Danny Reynolds, curator at Exmoor Zoo, said: “Exmoor Zoo participates in all manner of different breeding programmes in captivity to help protect wild populations but this has to be one of the strangest babies to be hatched here.

“What is fantastic for us is it is the first time this species has been bred in the UK. Very much an achievement for us.”

Head keeper Mr Derek Gibson has been travelling to and from work with this ‘special’ baby and been staying up all hours of the night as its substitute parent feeding the bird a liquidised mix of baby pink mice and papaya.

Now at about three weeks of age, its diet is changing and the bird is large enough to swallow whole food items such as small mice, worms and bits of raw meat and fish.

Exmoor Zoo has a group of four of these birds which have just started to mature at five years of age.

This ‘ugly’ little addition will initially join other ibis species to grow up and after two or three years will be introduced to the adult colony and take its turn at creating life.

The bird will grow to the size of a heron and develop a bright red skin cap on its bald head, a down-turned beak for probing in the soil (like our curlew).

One of only two species of bald ibis, geronticus calvus is less well know compared to its closest relative, the northern or waldrapp ibis, which is close to extinction.

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