Rare African cranes born at zoo
Two extremely rare chicks usually found in the African Savannah have hatched at a British zoo.
Touching photos show the pair of West African black-crowned cranes as they take their first tentative steps with their watchful mum at Chester Zoo.
The baby birds are the first of their kind to hatch in a UK zoo this year and arrived after a 30-day incubation period.
Curator of birds at Chester Zoo Andrew Owen, said: "This is a very significant breeding - the first in the UK this year.
"Currently the chicks are small, yellow and fluffy and it's hard to believe that they'll grow up to look as striking and unusual as mum and dad.
"But soon enough they'll develop golden feathers on top of their heads that almost resemble a Roman helmet. Already the young are very confident and capable of foraging with their parents.
"Cranes are also known for their elaborate dances and our young chicks are already capable of some nifty moves."
West African black-crowed cranes are vulnerable to extinction according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with just 15,000 estimated to remain in the wild.
The striking birds can be found from the western African country of Senegal to the central African country of Chad, but their habitat is under threat due to drainage, overgrazing and pesticide pollution.
Mr Owen said the capture and trade of the species as 'guard dogs' is also having a dramatic effect on wild numbers.
He said: "As well as suffering from habitat loss and poisoning by farmers, black-crowned cranes are also caught and used as 'guard dogs'.
"They are also disappearing as they hit newly installed overhead power lines. This all means that sadly, these birds are now very rare in the wild."
West African crowned cranes mate for life and both the male and female build their nest together and take it in turn to incubate their eggs and care for their offspring.