TWO rare chicks have been taking dancing lessons at Chester Zoo – from their parents.
The baby West African black-crowned cranes are the first of their kind to hatch in a UK zoo this year and arrived after a 30-day incubation period.
Andrew Owen, curator of birds, said: “Cranes are also known for their elaborate dances and our young chicks are already capable of some nifty moves. This is a very significant breeding – the first in the UK this year.
“Currently the chicks are small, yellow and fluffy and it’s hard to believe they’ll grow up to look as striking and unusual as mum and dad.
“But soon enough they’ll develop golden feathers on top of their heads that almost resemble a Roman helmet.
“Already the young are very confident and capable of foraging with their parents.”
West African black-crowed cranes are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with just 15,000 estimated to remain in the wild.
The birds’ range spans from Senegal to Chad but its habitat is under threat due to drainage, overgrazing and pesticide pollution.
The capture and trade of the species is also having a dramatic effect on wild numbers.
Mr Owen added: “As well as suffering from habitat loss and poisoning by farmers, black-crowned cranes are also caught and used as ‘guard dogs’.
“They are also disappearing as they hit newly installed overhead power lines. This all means that, sadly, these birds are now very rare in the wild.”
Chester Zoo has supported schemes to assist in the conservation of cranes in coastal areas of West Africa.