Posted on Saturday, May 1st, 2010
On our recent visit to China, to attend the First International Symposium for the Great Bustard in China, David Waters and I had the pleasure of meeting Jing Zhang, Beijing Zoo’s Curator of Birds and a world authority on breeding pheasants. We have been corresponding for the last year or so after an introduction by a mutual friend, John Corder, Vice-President of the World Pheasant Association.
In addition to the many species of pheasants at the Zoo, Jing also has a collection of six Great Bustards, all belonging to the oriental sub-species Otis tarda dybowskii. The Bustards have been in the Zoo for at least 15 years but their exact ages are unknown.
Despite Jing’s tremendous success at getting many species of rare and endangered pheasants to breed in captivity, the Great Bustards have never laid fertile eggs. No one has ever seen the Great Bustards in the Zoo copulate, but one of the females still lays eggs annually and unfortunately even attempts at artificial insemination have proved unsuccessful.
Jing was kind enough to show us around the rest of the Zoo, behind the scenes, where we even got to meet Pandas and have a tour of the pheasant breeding pens she has designed with the help of John Corder, ordinarily out of view to the visiting public. We met with the Zoo Director who was keen for GBG to stay in communication with the Zoo regarding their important collection of Dybowski’s Great Bustards.