As of recently a very rare bird species lives in the Bush, the Blue-crowned Laughingthrush. By managing (endangered) bird populations in zoos, we can ensure that we do not have to remove animals from the wild. Of the rare bird species we can see why they are endangered and sometimes we can even return them to their original habitat.
A few years ago a successful breeding program was created for the Blue-crowned Laughingthrush (Garrulax courtousi). Because it is a seriously endangered animal species, with only a small population in European zoos, contact was also made with zoos outside of Europe. This developed into an international studbook in which European, American and also Asian zoos participate.
This bird can only still be found in the wild in a small section of the Chinese province Jiangxi. Their population is estimated at about 200 to 250 animals. There are also about 250 of them living in zoos all over the world. The greatest cause of the dwindling of this species in the wild is the bird trade. In Asia it is still a custom to give one another a bird, like we give someone a bouquet of flowers. On top of that the living environment of this species is disturbed by urbanization and agriculture.
These are beautiful, olive-brown birds with a black mask and a crown of blue feathers on their head. It is a social species that lives in small (family) groups. The young birds help the parents with the raising of the next generation of young ones. They build open, cup-shaped nests of twigs and grass, which they fill with dry grass. In zoos the chicks already leave the nest when they are about 16 days old. Then the parents still have time to rear a second brood. They are real loudmouths and they eat a varied diet of fruits and insects.
By managing the species, it is not only the intention to breed with the animals, but also to make sure that the population retains the greatest possible genetic variation. In the meantime the population in zoos is doing great and breeding takes place in abundance. Because of this it can occur that some animals are overrepresented genetically. As the specific animals could perhaps be genetically important for the breeding program in the future, they are transferred to zoos where (temporarily) no breeding will take place. For that reason five female Blue-crowned Laughingthrushs are living at Royal Burgers' Zoo since the end of February.
In addition to the international studbook program also a number of conservation projects have been initiated for this rare bird. A few small areas are now protected and are supported by the local governments and various organizations, such as Chester Zoo and WWF China. Also educational programs for local schools have been set up, in which is taught how to protect local wild life.