Image: © May 31, 2023, Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Work to Save Last Milky Storks


The Animal Facts Editorial Team


July 17, 2023 9:55 pm


San Diego, California, The United States

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance are celebrating success in breeding the rare milky stork after two years of work. The breeding is part of last ditch efforts to prevent the extinction of this bird, numbers of which have dropped to a critical low both in the wild and in captivity. Working alongside the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Taxon Advisory Group (AZA TAG) they are working to breed some of the last milky storks left in North America.

The last 23 milky storks left in North America have been gathered at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California. Here nine chicks have now been produced helping to revive their struggling population. The effort is reminiscent of that undertaken in the 1980s to save the California condor.

"San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is the only zoological organization that has successfully bred and raised this species in the last decade," said Andrew Stehly, curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. "So, when we brought the birds together, we believed the Safari Park was the best location for this vital program. I'm proud of our organization and AZA, for stepping up and doing what's needed—because if we didn’t act, there’s a possibility we would lose these beautiful and important birds."

Recently the nine chicks underwent their first health check where they looked for irregularities, obtained weights, collected samples to determine sex and implanted a microchip.

''"Milky storks look the same when they are adults, so we use microchips and banding to tell them apart," said Stehly. "This checkup went very fast; the chick was deemed healthy, and was reunited with its parents. It is a tremendous honor every time I see a new chick, because it increases my confidence that we will save these birds. Of course, the continuing success of the California Condor program is proof of what is possible through these conservation efforts."

Numbers of the milky stork have declined significantly since the 1980s. Human activities such as habitat destruction, farming, rice cultivation and increased wildlife trafficking. In 2008 the species was listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a result of their population dropping as low as 2,200.

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Our Favourite Milky Stork Fact!

The milky stork regularly crossbreeds with the painted stork which threatens the survival of this species.

Image: © May 31, 2023, Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

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