FOR THE FIRST time, Critically Endangered Javan green magpies (Cissa thalassina) have successfully hatched and raised chicks in a UK zoo.

Conservationists and bird staff at Chester Zoo have been working alongside Taman Safari Indonesia and conservation partner Cikananga Wildlife Centre in an effort to save this rare species The Javan green magpie is believed to be on the brink of extinction in its native Indonesian forests, due to trapping and habitat loss.

In late 2015, six pairs were flown from Java in Indonesia to Chester to establish a conservation breeding and insurance population in the UK. From here, some were sent to Durrell Wildlife Park, Jersey, and Prague Zoo to kickstart the programme in Europe.

Chester Zoo’s curator of birds, Andrew Owen, said: “I have had the privilege of working with many rare and beautiful birds, but none are more precious than the Javan green magpie.

“Knowing that our first pair had nested was a momentous occasion, and seeing the first chick was even more special. The first pair laid in early June, resulting in one chick that same month.

“Our second pair laid in early July, and hatched one youngster later that month. The first pair then nested again in late July, relaid and had two more chicks. These hatched in August.”

Mr Owen continued: “All four have now fledged and are currently sporting blue feathers, which will eventually turn apple green as they mature.”

The arrival of the four parent-reared chicks, currently housed in special behind-the-scenes aviaries, brings the total number of Javan green magpies at Chester Zoo to 11. Once DNA sexed these will join the species’ global conservation programme. It is hoped to eventually return birds bred in the UK and Europe to the forests of Indonesia.

Mr Owen added: “These four chicks are a vital addition to the worldwide population. Every individual we breed here could help save the species as time is running out.”

● To find out more about Chester Zoo, visit: www.chesterzoo.org