May 23, 2024 – stabilized rather than eliminated

Using a lightweight aircraft, the scientists drove a small northern bald ibis to a wintering area. © Helena Weiner

A flock of birds in the sky. But something does not add up. A person with paramotors flies among feathered animals. This bizarre scenario is part of a project to reintroduce the northern bald ibis.

The northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) attracts attention with its glossy black plumage, red sickle-shaped beak, and distinctive bald face. It was once a common bird in Central Europe. However, due to intense hunting and loss of its habitat, it has been exterminated. A team of scientists and conservationists from various organizations has been fighting for years to make it possible to resettle the northern bald ibis to Europe. Good luck.

Human-led migration: This is the team concept. The basis for this is waldrapp chicks raised by adoptive parents. “We then trained the birds to follow a lightweight plane in which the adoptive parents were sitting,” explains Johannes Fritz, President and Founder of Waldrappteam Conservation and Research. In this way we can take the young birds to the wintering area in the fall, where they are then released.

Over the course of twelve years, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Waldrappteam Conservation and Research Company have assessed demographic data on nearly 400 individuals and used that to create future scenarios for the animals. “The analysis showed that Waldrap residents are on their way to becoming self-sufficient,” sums up Sina Drinsk from Leibniz-IZW.

The currently released population consists of about 200 northern bald ibis and they have been successfully multiplying since 2011. To date, about 250 young birds have been bred in the wild. “In conservation biology, the restoration of species plays an increasingly important role in order to counteract the significant decline in biodiversity,” explains Stephanie Kramer-Schadt from Leibniz-IZW.

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