The Mauritius Pink Pigeon

Amazing Animal

Just for kids

June 28, 1999|By Patricia Chargot

What is it? It's one of the world's 310 pigeon species.

Where does it live? It lives on Mauritius, an island 450 miles east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

Is it endangered? Yes. During field work on the Mauritius raptor, a type of hawk, in the 1970s, scientists noticed there were only 30 to 40 pink pigeons left. Humans long ago introduced predators such as cats, rats and a type of mongoose that kill pigeons. Predators almost made the birds extinct. So did the sugar cane industry, which took over most of the birds' habitat.

What happened next? In 1976, about a dozen of the birds were captured, and a captive breeding program was started on the island. In 1977, a second program was started at a preserve in the Channel Islands off England. Since then, about 300 birds have been reintroduced to the wild.

What's being done? Predators are being trapped where birds have been reintroduced. And the sugar cane industry has stopped expanding. It has already taken over all land suitable for farming.

How are the birds doing? It's too early to tell, but the birds definitely are breeding. They eat fruit and seeds, but humans leave out food to make sure they get enough to eat.

Does it migrate? No. The Mauritius pink pigeon stays on Mauritius. It's not too keen on crossing water and may not have the navigational abilities of other pigeons.

How many are in captivity? There are 56 Mauritius pinks in 22 North American zoos, including zoos in Bronx, N.Y., Houston, Milwaukee and San Diego.

Source: Kurt Hundgen, senior wildlife keeper, Bronx Zoo; Hundgen also coordinates the special survival program for the Mauritius pink pigeon for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

Pub Date: 06/28/99

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