An 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 , 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.
“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.”
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.
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)