Milky Storks are endangered birds whose populations have shrunk to around 1,500 adult birds in the last forty years. Tall and white, though smaller than other similar storks, Milky Storks live in coastal mangroves in sections of Southeast Asia. Habitat degradation and poaching are major threats to their survival. They are included on the IUCN’s Red List of endangered species as a result of these threats and the continually decreasing trend in their population. To sum it up, the Milky Stork is a species on the brink of disaster that faces the very real possibility of extinction without drastic interventions.
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While this may all sound a bit hopeless, there are reasons to be optimistic about the Milky Stork’s future; nine reasons, to be exact! The San Diego Zoo Safari Park announced this month that their Milky Stork breeding program has produced its ninth chick. This is an incredible success for a species that must seize on every possible victory.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park received its Milky Storks two years ago. They are the last surviving Milky Stork’s in North America, so finding ways to facilitate successful breeding was a critical concern. Milky Storks are not native to North America, but a small group of captive birds existed across multiple facilities until they were brought together at the park for the sake of an “11th hour” breeding effort. To that end, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has been massively successful. The most recent chick is the ninth to be produced in such a short time, proving that captive breeding may be a viable way forward for Milky Stork conservation.
According to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the new Milky Stork hatchling passed its first medical checkup where it was medically examined, weighed, microchipped, and banded. Both the microchip and the band will help park staff tell each bird apart as they look identical in adulthood.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is the only organization to successfully breed and rear Milky Storks in the last decade. These nine new hatchlings prove that captive breeding is can succeed for this endangered species. The Safari Park’s breeding program has been likened to the monumental conservation efforts which have sustained the dwindling California Condor population by captively breeding condor chicks and then releasing them as adults with monitoring equipment to track and study them. These efforts have restored California Condor populations from just 22 birds to more than 500. It is hoped that similar growth is possible for the Milky Stork, which fortunately has the advantage of a much larger existing population even as those numbers dwindle.
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