Project status
Project collaborators
Malcolm Nicoll

Dr Malcolm Nicoll

Senior Research Fellow

The Mauritius Kestrel once looked destined for extinction. There were only four known individuals in 1974, with just two left in the wild and two in captivity. Huge habitat loss and the widespread use of insecticides like DDT to control malaria and Dieldren to protect crops, had the unintended consequence of making them the rarest bird in the world. Together with our partners, we’re working at the cutting-edge of conservation to create a route to recovery for the Mauritius Kestrel.  

Conservation in Africa

Mauritius kestrel sitting in tree
Four Mauritius kestrel chicks after being tagged as part of ZSL conservation

Today, there are around 300 kestrels, and we’re carefully shaping a more balanced world. Our work is crucial to wildlife conservation globally, through advancing understanding of how small animal populations respond to climate change and habitat loss.   

The Mauritius Kestrel recovery programme is regarded as one of the most successful bird recoveries in the world, and we know this success can be replicated. Our work is providing a case study on how to successfully implement a combined strategy of captive breeding, reintroduction and the management of wild populations to reverse population declines.   

We’ve developed an in-depth programme of research to guide Mauritius kestrel conservation. Establishing how the reintroduced populations respond to conservation management, changes to their habitat and climate change. Our scientific approach is helping determine the cause of their decline and guide the most effective conservation action.   

Health checks for your conservation project

Partners & Sponsors

Partners: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, National parks and Conservation Service (Government of Mauritius), Durrell Wildlife & Conservation Trust, The Peregrine Fund, CNRS (France), Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (France), University of Helsinki, University of Leeds and University of Reading.  

Sponsors: BBSRC, Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Awards, Leverhulme Trust, Marie Curie Fellowship scheme, NERC, Scenario NERC DTP.  

A kestrel sitting between two tree branches
© Malcolm Nicholl/ZSL
Mauritius kestrel sitting on branch
© Malcolm Nicholl

The ZSL Institute of Zoology works closely with the Mauritius kestrel recovery programme, and together with our partners provides the crucial scientific evidence that drives effective field-based conservation actions. The recovery programme is implemented by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the National parks and Conservation Service (Government of Mauritius), with support from the Peregrine Fund (PF) and the Durrell Wildlife & Conservation Trust (DWCT).    

Our impact

  • A viable kestrel population in the Bambous Mountains.  

  • An annual programme of minimal monitoring and management.  

  • Suitably skilled field teams to conduct the monitoring and management programme.  

  • One of the longest running raptor population studies in the world.  

  • A tool for mapping kestrel habitat to identify suitable areas for reintroduction.  

  • Reintroductions into unoccupied areas of suitable habitat in SW Mauritius.  

  • 8 PhD studentships and 4 post-doctoral posts.  

Bird conservation at ZSL

  • Fairy tern from New Zealand landing on beach.
    New Zealand’s rarest indigenous breeding bird

    Fairy tern conservation

    Creating a route to recovery for New Zealand’s rarest indigenous breeding bird. Each potential loss is vital, with fewer than 40 individuals remaining and just 9 breeding pairs left.

  • Male hihi close-up black head with a white streak, and yellow streaks along body
    Bringing hihi back from the brink of extinction

    Hihi conservation

    How this tiny bird is helping reframe wildlife conservation translocation programmes globally.

  • Guam kingfisher (Sihek) sitting on branch
    The Guam kingfisher that was wiped out by snakes

    Sihek conservation

    We're creating solutions to save the sihek from the jaws of extinction - as invasive snakes outnumber people in Guam by 10 to 1.

  • Pink pigeon in Mauritius
    Cutting-edge conservation in action

    Pink pigeon recovery program 

    From just a dozen individuals to hundreds - their story proves that together anything is possible.

  • Red kite flying - identifying fork tail clearly visible
    Driving a resurgence

    Red kite conservation

    We are protecting red kites to ensure their numbers never crash again, by providing expert health surveillance and supporting reintroductions.

  • A puffin on Skellig Michael crag
    Protecting native species

    Conserving native birds

    Our work protecting some of the most iconic birds across the UK, including sea eagles, puffins, corncrakes and hen harriers

  • Bird conservation
Creating practical routes to recovery globally

Join us as we create practical routes to recovery for animals across the world. 

We work at speed and scale to drive forward a journey of recovery for the planet, protecting critical species, restoring essential ecosystems, supporting those living with wildlife and inspiring positive change, together, shaping a healthier living world.