There is thought to be fewer than 100 of the Javan green magpie left in the world, putting the inquisitive bird with distinctive green plumage, black eye feathers and a pink beak on the critically endangered list.
The zoo is hoping to boost survival rates by developing the first captive breeding programme outside of Indonesia, where a passion for keeping caged birds has seen numbers in the wild decimated. As the birds become rarer, their value increases, leaving many species on the brink of disappearing altogether.
The zoo’s curator of birds, Andrew Owen, explains: “We really are fighting against time to save the incredibly rare Javan green magpie from extinction. Sadly, there is evidence that the species is fast disappearing in the wild as they have fallen victim to the pet trade and an ever shrinking habitat.
“In fact, they have only been found once in the last 10 years in the wild by ornithologists. By bringing twelve of the birds to the UK, we are hoping our new conservation breeding programme will begin to address the desperate plight of this species and ensure a protected population for the future.
“We’ve been working with the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre in Java for five years and our mission to track down the birds with the beautiful green plumage has included trawling markets and interviewing traders.
“Over time we have managed to rescue a handful of birds and set up a breeding centre and, together, we have been successful in breeding the birds on their country of origin. However, so prized are they in Java, the breeding centre has suffered from a number of break-ins – the magpies being a prime target given their beauty and increasing value on the pet trade.”