After a gap of nearly a year, two ostrich chicks were born in an enclosure at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur.

Officials said the birth of the chicks, which were on display for the first time on Sunday, is a milestone as it was only the second time that natural hatching had occurred in the zoo. Earlier, attempts at hatching eggs in an artificial incubator had failed.

Zoo officials took adequate steps to ensure the mother ostrich was not disturbed during hatching. “Each egg weighs 1.3kg. Worldwide, nearly 80% of the ostrich eggs fail to hatch. Vandalur zoo is among the few zoos in the country where captive breeding has been successful,” a senior zoo official said.

A pair of ostriches (Stuthio camelus) was brought to the zoo in September 2008 from the livestock research station of the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Kattupakkam at a cost of Rs. 3 lakh. At that time, the female ostrich was nine years old. It first laid eight eggs in early January, 2010.

Three chicks were born in March that year but died within a few weeks due to weather conditions. In March 2012, six eggs hatched naturally. With the newborns, the zoo has a total of eight chicks born to the same parents.

Ostrich eggs, officials said, have an incubation period of 39 to 59 days. Inadequate ventilation, improper humidity and ill-fitting egg racks are some of the challenges during the hatching period.

Each newborn is being fed a kilogram of pulses brought from Namakkal district. Vandalur zoo is among four in the country to have an ostrich.

The world's largest flightless bird is widely hunted for its feathers (for decorative purposes), meat, skin (leather) and eggs.

The largest living bird species, ostriches are mainly found in East Africa.

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