Successful Incubation Strategy Leads to Hatching of Rare Birds at WCS’s Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo replicates conditions in the wild to provide maleos optimal chance for successful breeding and egg incubation

Found on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi – the Bronx Zoo is the only other place in the world to observe these endangered birds

In the wild, maleos incubate eggs using unusual heat sources


Bronx, NY – March 19, 2013 – Three rare maleo chicks have been hatched at the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo after careful study and re-creation of the specialized conditions needed for the successful incubation of this endangered bird’s eggs.


The Bronx Zoo has nine maleos including the three new chicks. Adults are on exhibit in the Bronx Zoo’s World of Birds – the only place these unusual birds can be seen outside of their native home on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Maleos are members of the megapode family, which use sources other than body heat to incubate their eggs. In the wild, female maleos lay and bury their eggs in underground nests, where heat comes from geothermal sources or from the sun when the nests are on beaches.

Because their incubation period is unusually long, chicks hatch at a comparatively mature stage allowing them to dig through up to three feet of earth. They have the ability to fly, forage, and thermoregulate the same day they emerge from the nest. The chicks receive no parental care after hatching.

To replicate the conditions needed for successful incubation, the Bronx Zoo’s maleos are provided with deep river sand in their enclosures that is heated electrically from below. These nesting areas are monitored closely through closed-circuit cameras. When an egg is laid it is immediately dug out and moved to an incubation room in an off-exhibit area.

Each of the chicks at the zoo hatched after approximately 70 days of incubation. They are healthy and currently in an off-exhibit area of the zoo.

“The success we are seeing in our maleo propagation program at the Bronx Zoo is truly the result of teamwork,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS Zoos and Aquarium. “Years of research in the field and at the zoo have allowed us to fine-tune procedures and incubation protocols. The husbandry science conducted at the zoo, together with the conservation work in the field, is integral in helping WCS ensure a future for this rare and endangered species.”

The maleo has a blackish back, pink stomach, yellow facial skin, a red-orange beak, and a black helmet or “casque.” The bird’s eggs are considerably larger than those of birds of similar size.

Said Dr. Nancy Clum, Curator of Ornithology at WCS’s Bronx Zoo: “Almost half of all megapode species are threatened with extinction. The work we do with maleos both at the zoo and in the field can provide a model for conservation of other megapode species.”

The knowledge gained about the biology of the maleo at the Bronx Zoo can be used by WCS field staff to better manage the populations in the wild – making the maleo an ideal species on which to devote the Bronx Zoo’s efforts.

Maleos are listed as Endangered by the International Union of Conservation and Nature (IUCN) and their numbers in the wild have seen a sharp decline in recent years due to human egg collection for food and predation by invasive species introduced to their habitat. The nesting sites protected by WCS represent the last chance for the species in the wild as other nesting sites on the island are at great risk of being destroyed and abandoned.

WCS established the Maleo Conservation Project in northern Sulawesi. The project focuses on the protection of the nesting grounds, recruiting local rangers and recruiting Maleo hunters as nest guardians. Expansion of the program has included the purchase of one of the nesting grounds to ensure its protection and the creation of nurseries for the safe hatch and release of chicks.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays, 5:30 p.m. weekends from April to October; 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m November to March. Adult admission is $16.95, children (3-12 years old) $11.95, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $14.95. Parking is $14 for cars and $16 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit www.bronxzoo.com or call 718-367-1010.

The Wildlife Conservation Society
saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a Web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to www.wcs.org

CONTACT: 

Max Pulsinelli - 718-220-5182; mpulsinelli@wcs.org
Steve Fairchild – 718-220-5189; sfairchild@wcs.org

~/media/Images/wcs org/forms/please donate to help conservation.png
Stay in touch with WCS and receive the latest news.