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Almost extinct Socorro dove hatches at Edin­burgh Zoo

pub­lished 09 August 2015 | mod­i­fied 09 August 2015

Socorro dove chick at Edingburgh ZooAn incred­i­bly rare dove that has been extinct in the wild since the early 1970’s has hatched at RZSS Edin­burgh Zoo. With less than 100 pure bred indi­vid­u­als of this species left in the world, a Socorro dove chick hatched on the 9th July before tak­ing flight and fledg­ing 14 days later.

Con­ser­va­tion char­ity the Royal Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Scot­land (RZSS), as part of the over­ar­ch­ing Euro­pean Endan­gered Species Pro­gramme (EEP), has suc­cess­fully bred this incred­i­bly rare species since 2005 and raised an astound­ing 12 chicks to date.

Not only that, but in 2008 RZSS Edin­burgh Zoo and Paign­ton Zoo have col­lec­tively sent 12 Socorro doves to Albu­querque Zoo in the USA to form a satel­lite breed­ing group amongst North Amer­i­can col­lec­tions, as part of a re-​introduction pro­gramme. Sub­se­quently, sev­eral birds were trans­ferred from there to Africam Safari in Pueblo, Mex­ico in 2013 and the fol­low­ing year saw the first Socorro dove chicks hatched in Mex­ico for almost 40 years. The hope is that these birds will pro­vide off­spring to be rein­tro­duced to their native habi­tat on the island of Socorro, Mex­ico, in the near future.

We are delighted to see another incred­i­bly rare Socorro dove hatch, the first from a new breed­ing pair sent to us as part of the EEP.
Colin Oul­ton, Bird Team Leader for RZSS Edin­burgh Zoo »

Male Socorro doves are noto­ri­ously aggres­sive in their pur­suits of mates, which is one of the rea­sons breed­ing this species can be dif­fi­cult,” added Oul­ton. “It is incred­i­bly sad to think that this species is now extinct in the wild and only around 100 exist in cap­tiv­ity. The hatch­ing of this bird high­lights the sig­nif­i­cant role zoos play in con­serv­ing species and help­ing to increase pop­u­la­tion num­bers of rare ani­mals. Due to coor­di­nated breed­ing pro­grammes with zoos across the world, this species has been saved and we are able to increase the num­bers and hope­fully rein­tro­duce them back into their native habitat.”

Socorro Island and its dove
The Socorro dove was endemic to Socorro Island, around 600km off the west coast of Mex­ico, how­ever the intro­duc­tion of sheep that ate plants the doves depended on for food and shel­ter and cats that preyed upon the birds is thought to have caused their decline. Work is cur­rently tak­ing place on Socorro Island to ensure it is suit­able for the future rein­tro­duc­tion of the doves.

Re-​introduction of the Socorro dove
Orig­i­nally, it was fore­seen that doves for rein­tro­duc­tion were going to travel directly from Europe to Mex­ico. How­ever, avian influenza out­breaks through­out Europe in 2005 prompted the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment to ban the impor­ta­tion of any birds from Europe. There­fore, to over­come this con­straint and main­tain the safety of avian pop­u­la­tions, cap­tive breed­ing of Euro­pean stock will be first brought into the United States and then trans­ferred to Mex­ico prior to any intro­duc­tion to Socorro Island.

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The young bird, which has yet to be sexed, is cur­rently off-​show at RZSS Edin­burgh Zoo with its par­ents. How­ever an adult Socorro dove can be spot­ted in the Bril­liant Birds Enclo­sure at the Zoo.

(Source: RZSS press release, 03.08.2015)

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