SADO, Niigata Pref. – The last Japanese crested ibis to have been born in the wild died Friday morning. It was about 36 years old — equivalent to over 100 for humans.
Officials of the Sado Crested Ibis Preservation Center on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, said Kin, a female, was found dead at 7:20 a.m.
The officials said Kin was the oldest crested ibis on record.
An autopsy determined that Kin died of damage to its head caused when it flew and hit the door of its cage around 6:30 a.m.
No problems were found in its internal organs, and the bird appeared to be in good health up until its death, according to the officials.
The crested ibis, whose scientific name is Nipponia Nippon, could once be found throughout East Asia, but its numbers dwindled due to hunting and scarcity of food due to agricultural fertilizers. Now it is only found in China and Japan.
The Sado center is home to 39 ibises born through artificial fertilization using a pair brought from China.
The center said Kin was born in 1967 and was found in a rice paddy in the town of Mano on the island that summer. It was named Kin after the late Kintaro Uji, a local ibis warden who fed and cared for it. Kin was placed in the center in March the following year.
The crested ibis was designated internationally as a protected bird in 1960 and as a national natural treasure in Japan in 1952. The Environment Ministry said there were about 280 crested ibises in the wild in China as of Aug. 1, and another 290 are in captivity there.
There are no crested ibises in the wild in Japan — they were all captured for artificial breeding purposes. Japan hopes to start returning some of its ibises to the wild beginning in fiscal 2007.
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