The two rare birds that could give a lift to China’s ties with Japan
Beijing might announce the donation of a pair of crested ibises during the Chinese premier’s trip to Tokyo, the first gift of its kind in more than a decade
China is expected to agree to donate a pair of crested ibises to Japan during a summit meeting later this week in the hope that it will mark the two countries’ improving ties, bilateral diplomatic sources said.
If Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang agree to the donation in Tokyo on Wednesday, it will be China’s first donation of the endangered birds to Japan in 11 years.
The move is aimed at securing the healthy reproduction of ibises in Japan as inbreeding has raised fears about compromised immune systems. The birds are expected to be delivered to Sado Island in central Japan’s Niigata prefecture.
“To secure genetic diversity, we have asked for the donation of new ibises from China,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.
In 1999, two Chinese crested ibises were sent to Sado after then Chinese president Jiang Zemin pledged to present the endangered species to Japan. Three more ibises were sent to Japan by 2007.
In 2011, then Chinese premier Wen Jiabao expressed his intention to donate ibises to Japan but the plan was shelved as ties worsened over a territorial row involving the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus.
Ibises are designated as a special natural treasure in Japan but Japanese-born ibises became extinct in 2003 when the sole remaining bird died on Sado. Tokyo has been artificially breeding ibises and preparing them for reintroduction into the wild.
More than 280 ibises are estimated to be living in the wild in Japan and those on Sado and on the Japanese mainland are descendants of the five presented by China.