UK & World News
Endangered Birds Hatched For First Time In UK
A dozen critically-endangered spoon-billed sandpipers have hatched for the first time in the UK.
The birds, brought as eggs from the Russian tundra, are at the centre of an emergency captive breeding scheme aimed at trying to keep them from extinction.
The eggs were incubated and hatched in Russia last year, before being brought to the captive breeding facility at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.
But, because of the difficulties in transporting live birds, the experts this year decided to collect and transport eggs before they hatched.
It was a close run thing to get the eggs from the Russian far east before they hatched, according to the WWT's head of conservation breeding, Nigel Jarrett.
He said the first chicks emerged just hours after the team arrived at Slimbridge at the end of their week-long journey by helicopter and plane from Russia.
"We hatched the first of our conservation breeding flock on the tundra last year and brought them back when full grown.
"With all we learned then, it made sense to transport them as eggs this year and the huge privilege for the UK is to have these amazing little chicks hatch here for the first time."
The sandpiper is one of the most threatened bird species in the world, with fewer than 100 pairs in the wild and numbers falling by a quarter each year which means it is facing extinction within five to 10 years.
"It's important to do everything to prevent the species' extinction," Mr Jarrett said.
"The spoon-billed sandpiper is a beautiful and unique bird, but whatever it looked like, we couldn't stand by while it went extinct."
The birds have been hit by loss of inter-tidal habitat in East Asia as they migrate south from their Russian breeding grounds, and bird trapping by villagers in their wintering sites in Bangladesh and Burma.