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Critically Endangered parakeets hatched at UK zoo

13/10/2013 21:39:46

As few as 250 grey-breasted parakeets, which are native northeast Brazil, are believed to remain in the wild.

Three of the rarest parrots in the world have hatched at Chester Zoo.
October 2013. It's only the second time grey-breasted parakeets have ever been bred in a UK zoo - with both breeding successes being at Chester.

Just 250 birds left alive
As few as 250 grey-breasted parakeets, which are native to Ceará in northeast Brazil, are believed to remain in the wild. Habitat loss and the illegal pet trade are blamed for their devastating decline. However the new arrivals have given conservationists fresh hope in the fight to haul the species back from the brink.

"These little additions are very significant indeed," said Andy Woolham, Chester Zoo's team manager of parrots and penguins. "Chester is the only zoo that works with grey-breasted parakeets in the UK and we're absolutely thrilled that we've been able to breed them, not least because there is real concern about the long-term future of the species in the wild.

Habitat loss
"Just 13% of their original habitat now remains as it has been cut down to make way for coffee plantations. That, coupled with what is thought to be their main threat, the illegal trade in captured individuals, has resulted in a dramatic reduction in their numbers. Sadly, they really are being pushed towards the very edge of extinction. However these hatchings give us hope and the challenge now for us is to replicate our breeding successes; try and establish a safety net population of these birds and help make sure that the future of this wonderful species is safeguarded."

  • The grey-breasted parakeet is considered the most 
    critically endangered parakeet species in Brazil.
  • Once regarded as a sub-species of the white eared 
    parakeets (Pyrrhura leucotis) they were recently 
    given full species status
  • The chicks hatched on July 22

The diminutive grey-breasted parakeet (Latin name Pyrrhura griseipectus), which is listed by Birdlife International as being critically endangered, grow to around 22cm tall and reach just 50g in weight.

Mr Woolham added: "When our chicks first hatched they were the size of 50 pence pieces. For the first 11 weeks they remained in their nest box where they were well looked after by their parents until they started feeding themselves, just as they would in the wild. But now we've finally been able to get a closer look at them.

"We've also been able to take a tail feather from each of the chicks, which will now be sent off for DNA sexing. It's vitally important that we know their genders so that we can work out who to pair with who in the future. These birds are extremely important and hopefully both will one day go on to have chicks of their own."

The chicks hatched just six weeks after a new purpose-built breeding facility for rare parrots was opened at the zoo. The zoo also supports a project which is working to protect the species in the wild.

Chester Zoo has also achieved breeding successes with several other threatened parrot species, including Mount Apo lorikeet, Ecuadorian Amazon, hyacinth macaw and Philippine cockatoo.

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