The Secret Life of the Zoo captures the moment an endangered bird hatches at Chester Zoo
Wednesday 13 December, 8.00pm, Channel 4
The hatching of critically endangered Javan green magpies has been caught on film for the first time at Chester Zoo.
The Javan green magpie is one of the world's most endangered species with only around fifty remaining in the wild, which places it on the verge of extinction. The reason: these beautiful songbirds are trapped for the illegal bird trade and vast swathes of their native forest have fallen silent.
Chester is the first UK zoo to successfully breed the species to give a vital boost to its global population, with the eventual goal of returning birds to their natural habitat.
Now, for the first time, The Secret Life of the Zoo cameras capture the moment magpie chicks are successfully hatched - as well as the courtship ritual between confident two-year-old Metina and her modest would-be suitor Permata who, at ten months, still has to earn his dating spurs. But as the tiny chicks emerge, their fragile lives are still vulnerable and there's no absolute guarantee of survival.
The Javan green magpie is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but bird experts are warning that the situation may have worsened in recent months amid fears that the magpies may now be close to extinction in the wild - with no recent sightings reported.
The breeding of several new chicks in Chester since 2015 has given a huge lift to conservation efforts to save the birds.
Chester Zoo is fighting for the future of South East Asian songbirds with conservation partners such as Taman Safari Indonesia, Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre and the Indonesian government.
Six pairs of Javan green magpies were sent to European zoos in 2015 as part of the global conservation breeding programme for this critically endangered species.
In two short years, the population in Europe has doubled!
Eight birds have been reared so far at Chester Zoo, three at Prague Zoo and one at Jersey Zoo.
It is hoped that in the future, we can return some of the offspring bred here back to Indonesia and that one day the lush mountain forests of West Java will once again echo with the calls of the Javan green magpie.
Javan green magpie facts:
• Scientific name: Cissa thalassina
• The birds are native to western Java in Indonesia and inhabit dense montane forests
• The bright green plumage is attained through the food the birds eat - insects, frogs and lizards
• Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre, which Chester Zoo supports both financially and technically in Java, bred its first Javan green magpie in 2013
• In 2015, six pairs of Javan green magpies were flown to Chester from Indonesia in a bid to save them from extinction
• The first chick to be bred in Chester hatched in 2015
Episode airs Wednesday 13 December, 8.00pm, Channel 4