Saving the Endangered Ridgway’s Rail
By Jessica LaFave
Did you know that the Living Coast is one of the only zoos in the world where guests can see a light-footed Ridgway’s rail? In addition to our current Ridgway’s rail resident, we now have a breeding pair on exhibit!
These two rails come to us at a very exciting time, since they will become our primary breeding pair within the Ridgway’s Propagation Program. Formerly known as the light-footed clapper rails, these endangered birds call marsh habitats and coastal wetlands their home. But because these birds require very specific conditions to thrive, they’re an endangered species. With support from the Port of San Diego, the Living Coast Discovery Center has been able to expand our role within the rail breeding program and conduct conservation research on Sweetwater Marsh and throughout the region. With breeding season fast approaching and our new breeding pair, we hope to help contribute to the success of this program and introduce new young birds to the Refuge and throughout Southern California.
The light-footed Ridgway’s rail (Rallus obsoletus levipe) is a state and federally-listed endangered species that can be found throughout southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico. Loss and degradation of habitat threaten the continued existence of this bird, although recent management efforts are reversing those trends in the wild. The presence of the Ridgway’s rail indicates the presence of a functioning tidal salt marsh ecosystem and its rich biological diversity.
The Living Coast is proud to be part of Team Clapper Rail, composed of organizations dedicated to the study, restoration and reintroduction of rails in southern California. Thanks to the team’s efforts, over 400 rails have been zoologically propagated and released into the wild since 2000. This year, the Living Coast has participated in the husbandry care and vital observation sessions that prepare rails for release into the wild. The Living Coast also provided raft maintenance, assisted with rail monitoring and collection, and participated in rail releases throughout the region. Our Animal Care Specialists have been working side by side with members of Team Clapper Rail from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other scientific partners. We look forward to continuing to take steps to save this indigenous species. This project is just one of the many ways we are fulfilling our mission to partner in collaborative research in San Diego County.
Jessica LaFave is the Development Manager at the Living Coast. She is very passionate about her work to help raise awareness for the conservation of local wildlife. Jessica has a very optimistic outlook on life and a great sense of humor, bringing laughter to all staff at the Living Coast.