NIIGATA (Kyodo) Koki Chikatsuji, a former chief of the Sado Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Center, died Tuesday of esophageal cancer at a hospital on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, his family said. He was 66.

Born in Tokyo, Chikatsuji started work at the center on Sado Island in 1967 and stayed for 36 years. The center was originally designed to protect and later to artificially raise the endangered birds.

In 1999, Chikatsuji artificially bred a chick from a pair of ibises donated by China, Japan’s first such success.

He took care of the last of Japan’s original crested ibis until it died in October 2003.

The crested ibis, which used to inhabit extensive areas of East Asia, has been almost wiped out as a result of hunting and environmental disruption.

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