PHOTO: Rare Bird Gets Own "Luxury" Beach

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March 13, 2009—An exclusive stretch of tropical beach in Indonesia has gone to the birds—literally.

The odd-looking maleo (above, right) has been given 36 acres (14 hectares) of "luxury" protected coast on the Binerean Cape in northern Sulawesi, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced this week.

Found only in Sulawesi, the chicken-size maleo—listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—lays its eggs to incubate in the sun-baked sands and then leaves. The chicks climb out of the soil ready to fly.

(Related pictures: "5 'Worst' Animal Moms?")

But that makes the nests vulnerable to poachers who illegally harvest the eggs.

Fewer than a hundred nesting sites remain, "so every one counts," Noviar Andayani, country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement.

"Protecting this beach is just the first step in what will soon be a comprehensive conservation project for the benefit of the maleo," Andayani said.

To commemorate the birds' new refuge, conservationists and local people recently released four maleo chicks (above, left).

Now owned by the local nonprofit Pelestari Alam Liar dan Satwa, the beach was purchased for about U.S. $12,500 by the Lis Hudson Memorial Fund and Singapore-based Quavat Management.

—Christine Dell'Amore

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