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Endangered sage grouse eggs hatch successfully

CALGARY - One of Canada’s most endangered birds has several new little ones to add to its population.

The Calgary Zoo says it is raising 11 greater sage grouse chicks that hatched from eggs collected in the wild.

Zoo officials say it's the first step toward establishing a captive population that may ultimately save the sage grouse from extinction.

It’s believed that fewer than 138 of the birds remain in Canada as energy and industrial development destroy their habitat.

Thirteen eggs gathered in May in southeast Alberta all hatched, but two chicks did not survive.

The chicks will eventually be transferred to the zoo’s Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre.

Earlier this year, the federal government issued an emergency order under Canada’s Species at Risk Act to try to prevent the birds' extinction. A decision to start a captive breeding program at the Calgary Zoo was made at a symposium in January.

“We are extremely pleased to have developed a process with the Alberta government of safely finding, moving and hatching sage grouse eggs that have been collected in the wild,” Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, head of conservation and research at the zoo, said in a release Tuesday.

“We are demonstrating immediate action to respond to the species’ imminent risk of extinction in Canada."

Populations of the greater sage grouse have declined by 98 per cent over the last 25 to 45 years. The remaining birds are split between two isolated populations in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan.

Biologists say the grouse — recognized by their mating display of dancing and drumming — could be extinct within a decade unless their habitat is protected.

(CHQR, The Canadian Press)

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