Chester Zoo Working to Save Endangered Birds


Chester Zoo is flying high after being recognised for the work it does to protect highly threatened bird species.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) has created a list of the top ten birds benefiting from conservation and breeding programmes at zoos and aquariums in the UK and Ireland.


Chester Zoo is home to six of the species on the list - the Bali Starling, Northern Bald Ibis, Visayan Tarictic Hornbill, Ecuador Amazon Parrot, Socorro Dove and the Blue-Crowned Laughing Thrush. 


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Andrew Owen, curator of birds at the zoo, said:

“The zoo plays a significant role in supporting and protecting endangered birds on the brink of extinction. The conservation of these birds is not just about the work we do here in the zoo through our breeding programmes, but also the important work we support in the wild. 

“A particular success has been the work we’ve done through a partnership with the Begawan Foundation in Bali - with the Bali starling. Just 14 years ago it was thought that only six individuals remained. However, through carefully managed breeding and reintroduction programmes that we assist with, this number has significantly increased over the last few years.

“Zoos can do so much to help birds and it’s great to be recognised for the huge amount of effort that we put into protecting very rare, endangered bird species. We care for more than half the species on the list, as well as many other highly threatened species that haven’t been listed, which is a big achievement.”

BIAZA use strict criteria to select the top ten list, as all of the species had to be associated with current field initiatives or part of essential conservation breeding in zoos, with priority being given to species listed as ‘threatened’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list of threatened species.

Dr Kirsten Pullen, CEO of BIAZA, said:

This year’s top ten report is the fourth in a series which highlights the contribution of good zoos and aquariums to the conservation of the natural world. This time, the focus is on birds. The birds in our latest report are all species that are reliant on captive breeding to complement field initiatives.”

The top ten list demonstrates the importance of zoos and aquariums not only for conservation breeding of safety-net populations, but also for their contribution to funding and management of conservation projects in the field, including research, education and support for local communities, as well as protection of crucial wildlife habitats.

A closer look at the six species Chester Zoo works with:

Bali Starling: These are seen as very desirable cage birds, and illegal trapping has brought them to virtual extinction in the wild – Chester Zoo works and supports captive breeding programmes in Bali.

Blue-Crowned Laughing Thrush: The zoo population of this Chinese bird equates to 50% of the total global population – Chester Zoo have taken the lead in coordinating the conservation effort in the wild, with captive breeding programmes occurring in mainland China.

 Ecuadorian Amazon Parrot: With fewer than 600 individuals left, its survival relies on the protection of remaining wild populations and their habitats – Chester Zoo not only manage breeding programmes in Ecuador but also conduct regular field research which is incremental to monitoring populations and identifying areas where protection is needed.

Northern Bald Ibis: Pesticide poisoning has had a devastating effect on their numbers. The BIAZA community is working together to ensure a genetically diverse bloodline within the captive population – Chester Zoo have worked closely with the conservation of this species and have successfully released eight captive bred birds back into the wild. The conservation has also been a success at home with a clutch of chicks arriving in July last year.

Socorro Dove: A classic island species, numbers have been devastated by man-introduced pests like rats, cats and goats. Captive breeding has saved it from total extinction – The zoo has supported this species over the last 20 years, and has worked hard to provide a growing population for the future. 

Visayan Tarictic Hornbill: Chester and Bristol zoos are actively supporting in-situ work to save and restore the wild habitat of this species – with Chester Zoo supporting several initiatives in Panay, Negros and captive breeding programmes in the Philippines. Chester Zoo
Working to help save endangered birds