London Zoo successfully breeds ‘extinct’ Mexican dove
Monday 30 October 2006
Bird keepers at London Zoo are delighted to have bred a dove that died out in the wild three decades ago. It’s a first for the zoo and keepers hope it will mark a change in fortunes for the beleaguered bird.
The Socorro dove (Zenaida graysoni) has been extinct in the wild for more than 30 years, and was last sighted in its natural habitat in 1972. Endemic to Socorro in the Revillagigedo Islands, 600 miles off the western coast of Mexico, there are now thought to be less than 100 in captivity and successful breeding is vital to a plan to reintroduce them to the wild.
Zoo keepers have named the new dove Arnie, in reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous catchphrase “I’ll be back”, because they hope that that successful captive breeding will mean Socorro doves could soon be back in the wild. As part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) breeding programme working towards reintroduction, Arnie’s descendants could end up living back in the forests of Socorro.
Socorro doves died out after falling prey to a rising number of feral cats in the area, populations of which have now begun to be brought under control. Overgrazing sheep also destroyed much of their forest floor habitat and the birds were also hunted by humans for food. Work is already underway to eradicate both sheep and cats from the island completely before reintroduction.
The Zoological Society of London’s Curator of Birds, John Ellis, said: “This is an enormous success for London Zoo and a real tribute to the hard work and expertise of our keepers. I would like to think that this captive breeding success marks a change in the fortunes of the Socorro dove and we are delighted to be playing our part in the reintroduction programme.”
The Socorro Dove is officially listed as extinct in the wild on the IUCN red list of threatened species.
The dove is not the only species categorised as extinct in the wild held in the collection at London Zoo. Partula snails from the south Pacific islands are also held here as part of a captive breeding and reintroduction programme. ZSL released the first captive-bred partulas into an area protected from the carnivorous rosy wolf snail on the island of Moorea in August 1994. The rosy wolf snail was an introduced species that predated on partula snails.
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