By NAOMI NISHIMURA/ Staff Writer
March 15, 2019 at 17:50 JST
Rock ptarmigans, a mountain bird species driven to near oblivion because of human activity, are being shown at zoos around Japan for the first time in 15 years.
Five zoos and the Environment Ministry have artificially hatched the endangered birds from eggs taken from Mount Norikuradake in the Northern Japan Alps since 2015.
The zoos are currently raising 30 rock ptarmigans, and eight were picked for display to the public to stress the importance of protecting the species.
Rock ptarmigans inhabit the Northern Japan Alps and Southern Japan Alps. But their population has been shrinking because mountain climbers keep leaving behind their trash, which has attracted foxes, crows and other predators to the nests of the birds. Rock ptarmigans were once feared extinct in Nagano Prefecture.
The government has designated the species a special natural monument.
Ueno Zoo in Tokyo’s Taito Ward on March 15 started exhibiting a male rock ptarmigan born in July 2017. The bird is covered with white winter feathers.
Viewing times are from 10 a.m. to noon. The zoo plans to extend the hours if the bird becomes accustomed to visitors.
Also on March 15, the Omachi Alpine Museum in Nagano Prefecture put on display one bird, while two rock ptarmigans each at the Ishikawa Zoo in Ishikawa Prefecture and the Toyama Municipal Family Park Zoo in Toyama Prefecture were shown to the public.
Nasu Animal Kingdom in Tochigi Prefecture plans to start displaying two of the birds on March 16.
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