Once wiped out in Japan, this species of stork is slowly – but surely – returning to the skies, thanks to regional conservation biologists.

Officials at the Hyogo Park of the Oriental White Stork in Toyooka, Japan have just announced the release of a recently-raised white stork, making it the 100th white stork living free in the wild today.

Conservationists first announced the 12-year milestone on Monday.

The species in Japan became extinct in 1971, due to the city’s fast economic expansion, but after receiving six chicks from Russia in 1985 the facility began breeding the storks in captivity. In 2005, the conservation center began releasing the storks into the wild.

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“I couldn’t be happier and hopefully they will continue flying in the skies all over the country and make other people happy too,” Satoshi Yamagishi, chief of the facility, told Japan Today.

By using eyewitness reports and tracking data, the facility is currently keeping a close eye on how the storks are faring in the local wild. However, the great white birds, which have a wing span of up to 7 feet, can reportedly still be found in China and Russia.

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