Mauritius pink pigeon
Before the first human settlers introduced exotic predators and began to destroy the forest, the pink pigeon was thought to be common on the small island of Mauritius. However, since 1840 it has been regarded as a rare bird, and by 1991 only 10 were left in the wild. The pink pigeon is one of just nine surviving native bird species, which exist in alarmingly small populations on Mauritius today.
Without emergency help from the Trust, this bird would have become as dead as the Dodo, the extinct Mauritian bird used to symbolise the efforts of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Environmental problems are particularly disastrous for the native wildlife of small islands, which sustain a relatively large number of ‘endemic’ species that are found nowhere else on Earth. Extinctions are largely caused by the degradation and destruction of the natural habitat, so that animals that have evolved to live there cannot survive, and the introduction of non-native, invasive plants and animals, which out-compete or eat native species.
The Trust’s work to help the endangered birds of Mauritius began in the mid-1970s. The Mauritius kestrel was the first focus of the rescue programme, then the pink pigeon and finally, the echo parakeet. The populations of these species are still at very low levels, but have been brought back from the brink of extinction by a combination of managing wild birds and captive breeding for release.
Pink pigeons are also bred at Durrell in Jersey, where they help to highlight the success of the Trust's Mauritius campaign. The first pink pigeons arrived at Durrell in 1977, and 20 of their offspring have been returned to their native island. Today about 350 live in the wild in Mauritius, and a stable captive population has been established to safeguard against extinction, should disaster strike again in the wild. The species’ chance of survival continues to improve, and it is thanks to conservation efforts that it has recently been down listed from Critically Endangered to Endangered.