TAMPA, Fla. - Many people will never get a chance to take a trip across the world to see a rare shoebill stork in its native habitat. But ZooTampa is home to three of only four shoebill storks in the United States.
These fascinating birds can reach 5 feet in height and are classified as critically endangered, with only 3,300 to 3,500 mature shoebills still living in the wild.
In 2009, ZooTampa became the first wildlife institution in North America to hatch one of these rare avians outside of their native range.
Tiffany Burns with ZooTampa says shoebill storks face a lot of challenges in their native environment. A lot of their wetlands are being used for agriculture and farming, so they are losing a lot of their habitat.
Their new facility is located in the Africa section of the zoo and will provide guests their first glimpse of these incredible animals in more than a decade.
"We are so honored at ZooTampa to have the species," Burns said. "Just to be able to see this amazing animal; they are large, they are very prehistoric looking, they have a lot of great characteristics that that people would not normally get to see. We are really happy to have them and to be able to share their story and hopefully help their counterparts over in Africa."
LINK: More info at zootampa.org