Japanese Crested IBIS (Nipponia nippon) – Bird Facts and Information
Six of the world’s 31 ibis species are threatened, but the Japanese crested ibis (‘Toki’) (Nipponia nippon) is the most endangered of all. No wild bird exists in Japan anymore and up to 1985 only 21 had been confirmed officially in China, though the total population might be 40—50.
Hunting of the beautiful white and pink Toki for its feathers was widespread in former times and the species was thought to be extinct between 1890 and 1930, but then small numbers were found breeding in central Honshu on the Noto Peninsula and a few others on Sado Island in Niigata Prefectuna.
Japanese Crested Ibis Habitat
During the 1940s clearance of vast areas of forest destroyed much of the bird’s natural habitat and by 1960 only some 12 birds remained in Japan. They were also recorded in Korea before World War II.
Today two males and two females Japanese Crested Ibis are caged on Sado Island for the purpose of captive-breeding. Three of these were captured on Sado in 1981 and one male has been loaned by the Chinese government for three years from October 1985.
Causes of extinction
All Japan’s five remaining wild ibises were captured in 1981 (another was already in captivity) but three females have since died and failure of the breeding project so far is put down to the limited number and advanced age of the birds. Therefore the Japanese and Chinese governments decided that their closer co-operation was essential.
The decline was equally severe in China and not a single Japanese crested ibis bird was seen between 1964 and May 1981, when seven were found in Yangxian Country, Shannxi Province in central China.
In the spring of 1986, the Japan International Co-operation Agency sent a survey team to Yangxian and as a result of their report, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs will consider technical assistance for the Chinese Ministry of Forestry in managing these birds.