AN ultralight aircraft is leading a group of endangered birds on a migration journey from Germany to their new habitat in Andalucia.
The Northern Bald Ibis, a bird known for its dark feathers and distinctive bald red head, had vanished from Europe centuries ago, leaving only one surviving wild population in Morocco and Syria.
However, ongoing efforts under the Eremita project, an EU-funded conservation program, aim to establish new populations in select areas of Andalucia, specifically in the province of Cadiz, as well as in Tuscany.
To support these fragile colonies, captive-raised chicks are being released into the wild.
The primary objective of experts is to establish a connection between the northern populations and those in Andalucia and Italy.
To achieve this, individuals born in the Vienna Zoo are transported from Germany to Andalucia under the guidance of an ultralight aircraft.
Initially, these birds underwent training to follow the aircraft’s path, and have now embarked on this unique migration journey, during which the ultralight aircraft substitutes natural instincts, serving as a navigational aid similar to Google Maps for the ibis.
If all goes well, this group of Northern Bald Ibises will join the existing colony in Jerez de la Frontera.
The team operating the ultralight aircraft aims to ensure the birds experience maximum freedom and tranquillity during their journey.
They possess the expertise to capture and recover the birds in case they become lost and stray far from the planned stopping points during the process, although they make every effort to avoid using these measures.
For safety reasons, the birds spend their nights in cages, with a convoy of vans accompanying the ground migration, equipped with all the necessary infrastructure.
The success of this guided migration will be a step forward in expanding the European population as a whole, however, consolidating a natural migration from the Alps to southern Europe is an achievement that is still somewhat distant.
There are currently 10 countries involved in the program, including Switzerland, which is not part of the European Union.
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