AboutZoos, Since 2008



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The Tuamotu King­fisher, less than 125 birds now!

pub­lished 24 July 2011 | mod­i­fied 24 Decem­ber 2011

With­out dras­tic mea­sures the Tuamotu King­fisher will go extinct. The entire pop­u­la­tion of this beau­ti­ful mul­ti­coloured bird lives on one small island in the south Pacific, and con­sists of less than 125 spec­i­mens. Accord­ing to Dylan Kesler, researcher of the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri, there is no other bird like the Tuamotu King­fisher on the planet, because it has lived in iso­la­tion for a very long time on Niau, one of the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia.

He is ded­i­cated to save this bird species from extinc­tion as 50,000 years of unique­ness and evo­lu­tion will be lost if man is not able to safe­guard this bird’s exis­tence. Together with his research team he unrav­eled part of the puz­zle, the habi­tat require­ments, which could lead to a fea­si­ble sur­vival plan. Coconut farm­ers are an impor­tant part of this plan. The spe­cific habi­tat char­ac­ter­is­tics of this King­fisher helped to iden­tify a few chal­leng­ing options. The farm­ers could help to cre­ate good nest­ing sites by not cut­ting down dead coconut trees, because only these are soft enough for the birds to build a nest in. Even more fas­ci­nat­ing is the request to the farm­ers to burn their land to clear the ground of veg­e­ta­tion, and expose the ground and lizards, the pre­ferred food of the King­fisher. These should be inter­me­di­ate burns, which are hot enough to destroy shrubs but will not turn into wide­spread fires that kill lizards.

Apart from this, the reseach also pro­vided infor­ma­tion about bird move­ments, crit­i­cal resources, breed­ing biol­ogy, and pop­u­la­tion demog­ra­phy, which under­pinned the neces­sity and the knowl­edge to estab­lish a sec­ond “res­cue” pop­u­la­tion on another island.

Despite the work so far, the pop­u­la­tion is still decreas­ing, and at this rate the Tuamotu King­fisher will be gone within our life­time accord­ing Dr. Kesler.

(Sources: web­site Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri, 21.03.2011; Tuamotu King­fisher Project)

Pic­tures, copy­right by Cura­tors of the Uni­ver­sity of Missouri


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