Above: The pink pigeons’ first-ever captive breeding programme was established by Gerald Durrell, alongside the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, National Parks and Conservation Service and Forestry Service. Photo: Gregory Guida
THREE PINK PIGEONS – descendants of individuals brought to Jersey Zoo by Gerald Durrell in the late 1970s – have been returned to their homeland of Mauritius.
Last month, three pink pigeons (Nesoenas mayeri) that were bred at Jersey Zoo joined Mauritius’s captive breeding programme with the aim of returning the species to the wild. The birds were accompanied on their translocation by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (DWCT) deputy head of birds Harriet Whitford, who said: “Durrell has held this beautiful pigeon for 40 years and is incredibly proud to be returning these birds to ensure the genetic health, and survival of this enigmatic species in its homeland.
“This repatriation will hopefully be the first of many, and is an example of the vital role zoos can play in helping to prevent the extinction of a species.”
After its population declined rapidly due to deforestation and the introduction of invasive predators, the pink pigeon was brought back from the brink of extinction and is now celebrated as a true conservation success story.
Once in Mauritius, the birds spent up to four weeks in quarantine in an aviary of Bras d’Eau National Park before being sent to the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary in Black River for the needs of the breeding programme.
The species’ current population is reported to be stable at about 470 individuals in the wild; in 1990, only nine wild individuals were reported. Conservation efforts have resulted in the species being downlisted in 2018 from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Pink pigeon timeline
●1976: During a visit to Mauritius, Gerald Durrell agrees with local authorities to assist in the conservation of endemic species, including the pink pigeon. It was agreed that Mr Durrell would bring back pink pigeons to Jersey Zoo.
●1984: A trial release of pink pigeons is carried out at the Jardin Botanique de Pamplemousses on Mauritius.
● 1987: The first full release of pink pigeons takes place in Macchabée forest, Black River National Park.
● May 1990, November 1992 and April 1997: Jersey Zoo sends pink pigeons back to Mauritius.
● 2000: The local population is estimated at 330 individuals and the species is downlisted to Endangered.
● 2011: Birds are released at Petrin, Black River National Park.
● 2016-2018: 30 birds are released at the Vallée de Ferney, Vieux Grand Port, and another 50 at Ebony Forest, Chamarel.
● 2018: The population is estimated at about 450 individuals and the species is downlisted to Vulnerable.
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