Erakina

Endangered bird returned to South Korean wild 40 years after extinction – Erakina

Published Date : February 4, 2022

The crested ibis was last seen in the Korean peninsula in 1979 before becoming extinct. After 40 long years, the endangered bird was introduced by the South Korean authorities on May 22, 2019. The bird is listed as the National Monument number 198 of South Korea as it was quite commonly seen across the peninsula. South Korea is taking the initiative to rear the extinct species at the Crested Ibis Restoration Center. The center had released around 40 crested ibises, the endangered species in the Upo Wetland, Changnyeong of the South Gyeongsang province. The 40 crested ibises released in 2019 are assumed to cover the losses for the 40 years, a prolonged period when the birds were absent in the Korean peninsula. It is an overwhelming aspect that countries like South Korea are initiating to revive endangered birds like the crested ibis from the verge of extinction. 

crested ibis

The endangered bird species of South Korea

Scientific classification of Crested Ibis

Phylum: Chordata

Kingdom: Animalia

Class: Aves

Order: Pelecaniformes

Family: Threskiornithidae

Genus: Nipponia

Species: nippon

Scientific name: Nipponia nippon

Facts about the South Korean endangered bird – Crested Ibis

  • Crested ibis also goes by the name Toki or Asian crested ibis or Japanese crested ibis. The bird is quite big in size, ranging to 30.9 inches or 78.5 cm in length.
  • Crested ibis is a beautiful bird and is white in color with a red head and face. The endangered bird has a long beak and is the only member of the genus Nipponia.
  • The birds make their nests at the treetops that are usually located on hills. Crested ibis prefer their nests at topmost regions to oversee their habitats. 
  • The crested ibis is found across the Russian Far East, Mainland China, and Japan. It used to visit Taiwan and the Korean peninsula occasionally but gradually disappeared from the region. 

Why crested ibis disappear from South Korea?

The endangered bird, crested ibis was last spotted in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea in 1979. But after that, the bird became extinct from the Korean peninsula. The apparent reason for the extinction of the birds was due to the excessive usage of pesticides for the crops. Gradually, the birds retreated from the Korean peninsula due to a shortage of adequate food. Before that, crested ibis was pretty common to the South Korean diaspora.

crested ibis

South Korea is recovering the bird from extinction

Significance of crested ibis to South Korea  

Crested ibis is a national heritage to South Korea holding National Monument no.198. The historical significance of the bird goes back to the 1920s when the Korean peninsula was a Japanese colony. There was a Korean children’s song wherein a crested ibis is calling out its lost mother. The colonial Japanese detested it as anti-colonial and banned the song. But the ban was lifted after the independence of Korea in 1945. The phenomenon enhanced the popularity of the song further and the bird became symbolic with the South Korean heritage and identity. 

Conversation process of the endangered crested ibis in South Korea

It was a proud moment for the South Koreans across the peninsula to rejoice the return of the crested ibis after a prolonged 40 years of disappearance. The country used the captive breeding process to reintroduce the endangered bird species into the South Korean peninsula region. The process started when the Chinese authorities helped its counterpart by donating the endangered bird species of crested ibis in 2008. South Korea used those birds for captive breeding. The phenomenon yielded positive outcomes as the population of the crested ibis grew to 432 at the Crested Ibis Restoration Center to date. The environment ministry of South Korea released 40 such crested ibises to the Upo Wetlands located 218 miles southeast of the capital city, Seoul.

crested ibis

 South Korea is recovering the bird from extinction

Takeaways from the return of the extinct birds of South Korea after 40 years

The release of the 40 crested ibises in the wild sanctuary of South Korea is a remarkable expression of conservation in the world of extinction. It shows that we humans can bring into life our endangered species as the South Koreans have accomplished. The association of nations like China is well appreciated and will go down into the history of South Korean conservation. The phenomenon of captive breeding points out the artificial, yet responsible way of recovering the endangered bird species even after prolonged years of extinction. 

By Shuvendu Modak

14.01.22   

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