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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Eagle flies high out of Belfast
White-tailed sea eagles were once common in Britain and Ireland
White-tailed sea eagles were once common in Britain and Ireland
Belfast Zoo is hoping to repeat its success of hatching the first white-tailed sea eagle born in the UK in almost 90 years.

The chick will soon be released into the wild after it was flown to Israel last week.

Staff at the zoo said they were delighted with the success of the breeding programme.

The white-tailed sea eagle has been extinct in the wild in Britain since l916.

If the programme goes well, the zoo hopes eagles will be released closer to home at some stage in the future.

The eagle's parents arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1997. There were fears that because the mother was hand-reared she would not be able to bring up the chick.

Assistant Curator Andrew Hope said: "This is a fantastic achievement for Belfast Zoo.

"We hope to build on this success and work towards the continued breeding of this endangered species, with hope of establishing a release programme here in Ireland in the future."
Chicks are kept in artificial nests until they are acclimatised
Chicks are kept in artificial nests until they are acclimatised

White-tailed sea eagles were once common in Britain and Ireland, but hunting led to their extinction in the early 1900s.

Modern day threats to their survival include electrocution, pesticides and shooting.

There has been limited success with a reintroduction programme in Scotland, with numbers still low.

The white-tailed bird, which originates from Europe and Asia, is the fourth largest eagle in the world.

Radio trackers

Belfast Zoo said Israel, where a reintroduction programme started in 1991, was an ideal place for the release.

The zoo's Andrea Fordham told BBC News Online the climate was extremely suitable and the birds had wide open space and plentiful supplies of food.

The eagle's parents arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1997
The eagle's parents arrived at Belfast Zoo in 1997
Israel uses eagles from zoos across Europe for its programme, in which chicks are kept in artificial nests until they have been acclimatised.

The latest chicks will bring the number released since 1992 to more than 30.

The programme's success will be monitored by the Israeli Parks Authority for Science and Conservation, using radio trackers and identification rings.

Belfast Zoo said it appreciated visitors who respected the privacy of the chick over the past few months.




SEE ALSO:
Zoo celebrates rare birth
27 Apr 04 |  Northern Ireland
Rare new arrivals for zoo
15 May 03 |  Northern Ireland


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