Austrian Times RSS FeedsLike the Austrian Times Facebook page!Follow us on Twitter!


Events for April
M T W T F S S
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
Add your event FREE

Today

Videos



BurgKino

Pub Quiz everyTuesday at Johnny's Pub

Popular in Austria

Cosmo&Nanu

Cosmo&Nanu

The Birds in Flight

Micro light success as rare Ibis returns

By Michael Leidig

A critically endangered bird species that lived in Europe for 1.8 million years before it was wiped out by hunters has been reintroduced in three locations by a bird lover who showed them the way using a microlight.

Dr Johannes Fritz used the technique of imprinting by making sure he was the first thing the chicks of the rare Northern Bald Ibis saw when they hatched. Using the trust that bond built up, he then persuaded the birds to follow him in his microlight between the birds summer and winter feeding grounds in Tuscany and the Austrian and German Alps.

He said: "We now have the birds established in three mountain locations. It's a great success - but we are counting the days now until the first birds return after running the gauntlet of hunters."

Last year German student Stefanie Heese, 25, and Austrian student Daniela Trobe, 29, took six months off from University to act as parents to the latest new arrivals.

From first light until sundown the two were on hand to cater to the baby birds every need – from feeding them as chicks through to grooming them and then later into educating them on how to survive in the wild. Educational games such as hunting worms together were designed to expand the birds interest in the world around them, and in training in how to find food on their own – and that effort culminated in the last six weeks of their time together with flight training.

Every day the pair and would lead the birds to a microlight plane and would then practice flying and gliding over the Austrian Alps in Salzburg in preparation for the long migratory flight to Tuscany.

Finally last year in October the pair accompanied their 16 charges as they made the 1,353 kilometre journey accompanied by three support vehicles over 36 days to their winter feeding ground in Italy. Every day they stopped at a prearranged spot and met up with the ground crew where food was provided for the birds to keep their strength up, and then they carried on with the trip.

Dr Fritz who initiated the project a decade ago after working with the birds as part of research project organised by the Conrad Lawrence Research Centre said he had been motivated by the difficulties he observed there in reintroducing captive Ibis birds back to the wild.

Fossil records show that the Northern Bald Ibis, regarded as a critically endangered species, had been present in Europe for 1.8 million years but it vanished 300 years ago - and now thanks to the work of Dr Fritz not just one but three breeding colonies have been established back in Alpine Europe.

He said: "I was also sceptical about being able to reintroduce this unique bird back into the wild but all that changed when I saw the film Fly Away Home and was really impressed by William Lishman's success with Canada geese. I decided to try and repeat the experiment."

Single-handedly he started his project and over the years has built up supporters including Schonbrunn Zoo, the world's oldest zoo, located in the capital Vienna which has a large captive Bald Ibis colony and which provides many of the eggs for the yearly trip down to Italy.

The project has hit many snags – and Dr Fritz, 45, would be the first to admit that starting from scratch there was a lot to learn.

He said: "The imprinting where the birds are taught from the start to recognise a specific person as a parent bird was the first hurdle.

"It is amazing to watch, when the human they don't recognise is around the birds avoid contact and fly away. But when their adopted parent appears they will run or fly to the person as soon as they spot them – calling and rocking their heads in a welcoming gesture that shows they clearly recognise their parent. That position allows the human to teach the birds a lot – for example not to be afraid of the microlight."

The first batch Dr Fritz acted as a parent for he admitted was ultimately a heartbreaking experience. None of his 10 hatchlings still survive and now every year he selects students to be parents for the birds. The latest batch of 16 were hatched out by the two students and of the 16 that set off 15 made it. He said: "That is a fantastic success rate."

And Dr Fritz added: "It shows how far we have come. Only one became ill and couldn't make it – and that bird has now been put permanently with a captive colony in Carinthia in Austria to spend the rest of it years there. The other 15 are now flying around in Italy with others as part of the community down there."

The team have managed to iron out teething problems with the imprinting to make the adoption a flawless process and also overcome all the birds obstacles to following the microlight down to Italy where they spend the winter learning from other birds how to feed themselves and about life in the wild.

But they haven't managed yet to overcome the one big obstacle – man.

Dr Fritz said: "Every year we lose birds to hunters. There's always been a tradition in countries like Italy about shooting migratory birds which used to be eaten. Nowadays, it's mainly done for fun, even though it's illegal to shoot the Ibis which is on the red list as highly endangered.

"This will be the first time we get to see the real advantages of the electronic tagging. We started tagging a few birds last year (2011) and by October we had managed to tag 50 percent of the birds. The device was specially created for us and our requirements. By March (2012) we had tagged all of our birds."

He said that although they mix in one group in Italy the birds are actually from separate breeding colonies and one group will fly back to Burghausen in Bavaria, Germany, while the others will fly back to colonies in Salzburg and Scharnstein, both in Austria.

Fritz is trying to teach and inform hunters about the project to prevent further losses of the birds by gaining publicity in the media.

He said: "The technology allows us to track exactly where the birds are. This will help us protect them and control their movements."

For a video of the trip - click here.

Austrian Times


Are you on Facebook? Like the Austrian Times on Facebook and win great prizes!




Tag cloud:
Austrian  student  bird  imprinting  hunters  microlight  recognise  endangered  Fritz  breeding  Ibis  German  Italy  ndash  feeding  migratory  Europe  colonies  captive  success


Latest News

 

Faymann warns against further Russia sanctions
Chancellor Werner Faymann has spoken out in support of moving away from additional sanctions on Russia.

What is on at Haydn Kino this week? (24 April - 30 April)
The following films are on at the English language cinema Haydn Kino on Mariahilfestrasse between 24 April and 30 April:

Gazprom to explore expanding pipeline in Austria
Russia could soon begin constructing their South Stream gas pipeline in Austria after meetings were held this week with Gazprom.

Poacher in Vienna shoots five deer with bow and arrow
A poacher is suspected to have killed five animals in Vienna using a bow and arrow, a hunting weapon that is forbidden throughout Austria.

Czech firm in the proverbial over dung parcel terror alert in Austria
A Czech mail order company that sends elephant poo around the EU could be faced with a hefty bill after a package of dung sparked a terror alert at an Austrian town hall.

Model helicopter chops up owner
Austrian model aircraft enthusiast Uwe E., 50, is in intensive care after he tried to catch his expensive model helicopter when it suddenly dropped out of the sky in the town of Krenglbach in Upper Austria, and he was badly chopped up by the rotor blades.

ORF Watch To Probe State Broadcaster
Nine Austrian journalists, including the author of this article which is one of many published on my Tagebuch (diary), have got together to create a new website www.ORF-Watch.at.

Julius Meinl expands to UK
Austria's prestigious coffee brand Julius Meinl is launching its famous product in the UK, with the hope of challenging the British culture of taking coffee to go.

Indestructible Armoured Police Tank Damaged By Eggs And Tennis Balls
An Austrian manufacturer of a high-tech anti-riot water cannon costing almost 1 million EUR is facing some tough questions after one of the vehicles was badly damaged during a demonstration that involved eggs and tennis balls.

Wiener Linien grinds to a temporary halt Wednesday morning
Vienna's public transport will grind to a halt between 4 am and 6.30am on Wednesday morning as unions hold an emergency meetings to discuss the safety of Wiener Linien staff.

 


Mala Vrata

The most popular stories –
last 7 days



Don't moan alone, the Ombudsman Investigates.

Why suffer in silence. Let off steam by letting our readers share your troubles. File your complaints about anything and everything here.

Our ombudsman David Rogers will try and help solve some of the problems from lazy civil servants through to incompetent companies – and at the very least the worst transgressors will end up in our weekly special report.


Austrian Zimmers