Eureka! Jersey Zoo pink pigeon breeds in Mauritius

Durrell is delighted to announce that a pink pigeon transferred from Jersey Zoo to Mauritius last year has sired its first offspring since arriving on the island. Hatched on the 29th February 2020, the appropriately named Eureka is the first successful pink pigeon to be bred from the repatriated birds.

The father, Kewtoo, is one of three captive-bred male pink pigeons from Jersey Zoo that were translocated to their native island of Mauritius on 6th September 2019. They joined the in-country captive breeding programme aiming to return missing genes to the wild population. Now living at the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary (GDEWS) with their Mauritian females, the three birds are doing well in their new home. As descendants of individuals brought to Jersey Zoo by Gerald Durrell over 40 years ago, these pink pigeons are hugely important for the breeding programme of this precious species.

Durrell’s Deputy Head of Birds and Pink Pigeon EEP Coordinator Harriet Whitford said, “They have settled in incredibly well, with pairs successfully building nests and egg-laying. Genetic studies have shown that the European captive population held in zoos carried genes that are no longer found in the wild birds in Mauritius. A very special bird, Eureka now carries a mixture of genes from both populations and when released into the wild, will be returning genes lost in Mauritius until now.”

During the late 1970s, the pink pigeon was considered to be one of the rarest birds in the world, with just ten individuals thought to remain in the wild. 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.

Although the wild population of pink pigeons is currently stable, the species still faces the same threats; invasive predators, and a limited and deteriorated habitat. Monitoring genetic diversity is an important part of conserving this species, as a greater genetic variability helps to maintain the health of the population, provides better protection against disease and pests, and makes the birds more adaptable to environmental changes.

This project is a partnership between Durrell, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and National Parks and Conservation Service, with sponsorship from MCB & Air Mauritius. The team hopes for many more pink pigeon fledglings in the near future and more successful repatriations from Jersey Zoo. Achievements like this are examples of the vital role zoos and captive breeding programmes can play in helping to prevent the extinction of a species.