A NEWLY-hatched chick in Slimbridge could be the first Crane born in the wild to survive in the west of Britain for 400 years.

The parents of the new arrival were hand-reared by The Great Crane Project reintroduction programme and released as three month old fledglings on the Somerset Moors and Levels, where cranes were once commonplace.

Last year the parents managed to hatch a chick but it died before ever leaving the nest at Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Slimbridge Centre.

But this year footage of the newly-hatched chick shows it swimming near the nest and looking healthy.

Visitors to Slimbridge have been able to watch the chick from one of the public hides.

Conservationists behind the project hope this chick survives to adulthood and takes the reintroduction programme to the next stage.

WWT’s head of conservation breeding, Nigel Jarrett, who helped design the reintroduction programme, first spotted the chick on the webcam that’s been trained on the nest.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be on the cusp of a new generation of totally wild cranes that will hopefully start to re-colonise parts of Britain that haven’t seen cranes for four centuries,” he said.

“The chick hatching last year confirmed that the cranes we hand-reared were physically able to breed. This year we’ve got everything crossed that everything goes in their favour and they can rear this chick.

“There’s been an overwhelmingly positive response to the return of the cranes from people across the west of Britain. They are a fantastic advert for restoring wetland habitats.”

A second pair of cranes has nested nearby and staff and visitors at WWT Slimbridge are watching carefully to see if they too manage to hatch a chick.

The Great Crane Project has reintroduced 76 cranes over the last four years and Nigel Jarrett’s team is currently rearing one final group for release later this summer.