A vet clinic in Italy got a “very strange guest” recently after some concerned people picked the odd-looking bird up, fearing it was sick. But it turns out the bird is very rare. So rare, that there are only around 200 in all of Europe.
The northern bald ibis was hunted to extinction 400 years ago, but the species is returning to places in Europe as part of a conservation project headed by the Waldrappteam, which re-introducing the birds into the wild.
The birds are being born and raised in two zoos in Austria and the hatchlings grow up and learn to fly with the help of a human mother in a paraglider.
This particular ibis wasn’t actually sick, he was perfectly fine. His name is Lancelot and he was standing at a lake on his way to Orbetello when he was picked up by people who feared he was ill. Fortunately, the Clinica Veterinaria della Tuscia knew who to call and he was recovered by the project operators and Lancelot finally arrived at his end destination safely!
The reintroduction of the northern bald ibis is a unique project, as the bird was for all intents and purposes extinct in the wild back in 2013.
“In spring 2013 the worldwide population of free living northern bald ibisses with intact migratory behavior was reduced to one single individual in the Middle East,” Waldrappteam writes. “This means that the northern bald ibis as migratory bird species is factually extinct.”
The project also aims to tackle illegal bird hunting, not only to help sustain the ibis population but also to help other bird species in Europe.
Thanks to the ongoing efforts of this conservation team, the ibis just may make a comeback.