Hilzingen, Germany – Johannes Fritz, a daring Austrian biologist, once again needed to devise a plan if he wanted to prevent his beloved and tiny common birds from extinction.
To survive the European winter, Ibis calvo septentrional -which completely disappeared from nature on the continent – needed to migrate south, over the Alps during the winter, before the mountains became impassable.
However, the change in climate patterns delays the time the birds begin to migrate and now, reaching the mountains too late to overcome the summit, finds them in a deadly snow trap.
“En dos o tre años se hebrion extinguido de nuevo”, Fritz affirmed.
Deciding to save them, Fritz decides to teach them a new and safer migratory route, guiding them to the Ultralight. And I was sure that I could succeed in this daring and unorthodox plan, because I had done it before.
When Fritz was born, 56 years ago, the northern bald ibis, A black bird the size of a swan with a bald head and huge beak, found only in captivity in Europe. About 400 years ago, Europeans may have eaten up the last of them.
Pero Fritz has dedicated his career to reintroducing these birds to the wild And an essential part of their education includes teaching the children the migratory routes they will follow as adults.
Fritz learns to fly by modifying an ultralight aircraft so that it can fly at high speed Slow enough so that his winged pupils can follow his movements.
Since they were a few days old, Fritz was the only one who gave them food, affection and treats, and the ibis eagerly followed its conductor, who was operating a noisy machine.
In 2004, after three years of some experiments on contingency theory, Fritz operates the first band from Austria to Italy And since then he has directed this type of quince migration. In that time, I estimate 277 young ibis were released into the wild again, many of whom have begun to transmit passages to their young.
NoHowever, the path that Ibis taught is no longer viable. Due to climate change the summer area of these birds, next to Lake Constance (Germany and Austria) has become warmer and now, they start their migration in late October instead of late September as they did only before. Was. a decade.
Last year, following the progress of the birds, Fritz found that the snow covered the feathers of the ibis and that their broad beaks attempted to forage for larvae and maggots in the cold soil., Three colonies of ibis made two attempts each to cross the mountains in November, but were unsuccessful on all occasions. Fritz speculated that in November the warm updrafts were too weak to allow birds to easily fly over the mountains.
Fritz and his team attracted hungry animals with harina worms, caught them in boxes and transported them over the Alps.
But Fritz realized that a private bus service was not a permanent solution, so the bird show became possible A new migration route.
This summer, on Lake Constance, Man and bird attended a flying school, Practice escorted flights for your epic journey. For October, they hope to reach Spain’s southern Atlantic coast, near Cádiz, where the birds can comfortably spend the winter.
The new route, which passes through the Alps, It is about 4023 kilometers wider than the previous one, directly south of Tuscany. Flying at a maximum speed of 40 kilometers per hour, the journey is expected to last around six weeks before the two arrive in Tuscany.
Growing up on a mountain farm in Tyrol, Fritz enjoyed observing how cows and horses interacted with each other with greater freedom – kurucandos e jugando – once they were removed from the stables and onto pastures. moved to. These childhood observations fueled his dream of becoming a biologist.
At age 20, he enrolled in a program that would allow him to study biology at university, but before he had to graduate as a state hunter responsible for maintaining tight control over the local animal population .
in steep alpine terrain, He kept an eye on the health of herds of rebeccos and deer as long as he refused to kill them. Only once, at repeated urging from his boss, did he pull the trigger. “An orphan Cervatillo, who would have died”, reported Fritz, who classified the shooting as a “negative moment” in his professional life.
I was 24 when I finished my studies at the Universities of Vienna and Innsbruck, Later, I got a job at the Konrad Lorenz Research Center in Austria, where I made cuervo polluelos by hand and taught geese to open boxes during my doctoral studies. Working so closely with animals in the wild was exactly what I had dreamed of as a child.
In 1997, a zoo gave the research center the first pollination of a northern bald ibis. The ibis disappointed most scientists, as they were no less educated than the geese and did not even come close to the superintelligent Cuervos.
But Fritz was in love. When people say that their red and wrinkled head and their black buds are on the road to the ugliest bird in the world, it indicates their charisma, sociability and affection. Sabes lo que les testas a los polluelos – Rats demenuzados y corazón de ternera, ocho veces al dia – and the curious bird enjoys gently thrusting its broad beaks into your ears.
More than twenty years ago, when ibis were first released into their natural habitat, Fritz realized that the generations passed by being caged in zoos had not given up their desire to migrate, even though they had left them geographically ignorant. Some people reached Russia in search of “Sur”.
Fritz thought that the ibis needed a guide.
“For the time being, ‘Volando a Casa’ was a great success among us biologists”, Fritz recounts the 1996 film in which characters played by Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin direct the migration of orphaned Canadian geese on a wing. When Fritz announces that the same will happen to Ibis, they at first scoff at him.
But after years of trial and error, logró, I also learned to fly like a bird, I said, recreating flight with ease.
Hoy makes safety a priority, in part because you’re not alone in your risk. Now Ibis is created by two research assistants who act as human foster mothers: one flying behind Fritz’s plane and the other with another pilot.
On a warm morning at his camp on Lake Constanza, Fritz takes to the sky in his monochrome olive green and boards his plane. If you turn back to see how 35 Ibis is working, make a sign to one of the hostesses so you can feel behind them. As they fly over the grassy path, the birds flap their black wings, following them.
Soon they’ll be flying west, towards France, and then south, towards the Mediterranean SeaFrom where the coast will travel to Andalusia, one of the hottest and driest regions of the continent, unpredictable weather conditions will be encountered along the way.
But the unavoidable risks are “necessary,” Fritz assured.
He said, “It is not such a big job”, but it is the aim of my life.
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