Attwater Prairie Chicken Breeding Facility

A breeding facility for the endangered Attwater Prairie Chicken has been dedicated at the Johnson Space Center. This unique facility is the result of a unique arrangement between NASA and the Houston Zoo. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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For openers, the Attwater Prairie Chicken is literally on the brink of extinction.

"That is correct. Right now there are less than 50 in the wild."

That's Hannah Bailey -- Birds Curator at the Houston Zoo -- who worked with NASA to build a protected enclosure for the endangered native bird in NASA's backyard at the Johnson Space Center. JSC sits on the edge of more than a thousand acres of land, most of which is undeveloped, and Bailey says it was easy to talk NASA into letting them use a small corner of it for a bird breeding facility.

"It's a brilliant partnership. NASA is looking for ways to work with saving things here on Earth, as well as learning about outer space, and we needed some space for our prairie chickens."

Bailey says the breeding facility is stocked with pairs of prairie chickens that produce eggs the Zoo uses to help bring the population back in the wild.

"We actually take the eggs up to the Houston Zoo after they lay them, raise the chicks and then bring the chicks back down to the Johnson Space Center, in preparation for release into the wild onto the Texas City Prairie Preserve, or onto the Attwater's Prairie Chicken National Reserve."

Which is west of Houston near Eagle Lake. NASA has set aside about ten acres for the Zoo's uses. The breeding enclosure takes up about two acres, and the rest is used to grow eucalyptus trees and other plants as food for other zoo animals. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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