Published Saturday, August 25, 2018 11:42AM EDT
The Calgary Zoo made history earlier this month when it welcomed its first-ever greater rhea chicks.
The pair – now three weeks old – hatched at the zoo on Aug. 3 and 5.
The flightless greater rhea is the largest bird in South America and is found mostly in Argentina and Brazil. Related to the ostrich and the emu, the bird uses its wings not for flight, but for balance and changing direction while running.
Male rheas incubate the eggs and care for the new hatchlings, guarding them aggressively for six weeks after their birth.
Colleen Baird, the general curator at the Calgary Zoo, told CTV Calgary that the male greater rhea, Jekyll, has fully embraced his traditional role of dad and caregiver.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified the greater rhea as a near-threatened species, meaning that it is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable classification in the near future.
The birds are part of the Calgary Zoo’s Species Survival Plan, which helps safeguard at-risk species.
Greater rheas are often hunted for their skin, which is used to manufacture leather, while others collect their eggs for consumption. Both have contributed to the species’ dwindling numbers.