Teaching endangered ibises a new and safer migration path

Teaching endangered ibises a new and safer migration path

The New York Times reports:

Johannes Fritz, a maverick Austrian biologist, needed to come up with a plan, again, if he was going to prevent his rare and beloved birds from going extinct.

To survive the European winter, the northern bald ibis — which had once disappeared entirely from the wild on the continent — needs to migrate south for the winter, over the Alps, before the mountains become impassable.

But shifting climate patterns have delayed when the birds begin to migrate, and they are now reaching the mountains too late to make it over the peaks, locking them in an icy death trap.

“Two or three years, and they’d be extinct again,” Mr. Fritz said.

Determined to save them, Mr. Fritz decided he would teach the birds a new, safer migration route by guiding them himself in a tiny aircraft. And he was confident he could succeed in this daring, unconventional plan — because he had done it before.

When Mr. Fritz was born 56 years ago, the northern bald ibis, a goose-sized black bird with a bald head and an enormous beak, could be found in Europe only in captivity. Some 400 years ago, Europeans likely devoured the last of them.

But Mr. Fritz has spent his career reintroducing the birds into the wild, and an essential part of their education has been teaching the young the migration path they will follow as adults. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.