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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 May 2007, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Endangered white storks hatch egg
By Steve Jackson
BBC News

The chick is at the feet of parent white stork in a nest in western Japan, 20 May 2007
The new chick's parents were born through artificial breeding
A couple of endangered storks in Japan have hatched an egg in the wild for the first time in more than 40 years.

The oriental white stork chick emerged from its egg at the top of a 13m-high pole in the west of the country.

Oriental white storks became extinct in Japan in the 1980s, but conservationists have been trying to successfully reintroduce the species.

A captive breeding programme has been underway for 20 years using birds donated by Russia.

But the new chick is the first one known to have hatched in the wild in Japan since 1964.

Step forward

Its parents were among a dozen storks born in captivity but released into the wild to breed.

The oriental white stork (Ciconia boyciana) is generally a solitary species with distinctive red markings around its eyes.

It lives on a diet of fish and frogs and migrates south in the winter.

In recent decades numbers have declined because of hunting and the destruction of its habitat.

Most of the remaining birds live in Russia and China.

Conservationists in Japan are very excited by the new arrival and say it represents a big step forward in reintroducing the species to the wild.

The storks are officially designated a national treasure in Japan.

Country profile: Japan
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