Project started
20 June 1997
Project status
Project collaborators
Malcolm Nicoll

Dr Malcolm Nicoll

Senior Research Fellow

The pink pigeon once flew from coast to coast across the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius. But the introduction of predators and an abrupt loss of habitat restricted the remaining population to a tiny pocket of the island by the 1970’s.  The remaining dozen birds were at risk of being lost forever, until an international conservation programme stepped in, and successfully boosted numbers to the 400 pink pigeons in the wild today.

We are supporting the pink pigeon conservation programme through captive breeding and rearing at London Zoo as part of the European studbook for the species and providing expertise to help manage the birds in Mauritius.   

Pink pigeon perched on branch in Mauritius
Pink pigeon in Mauritius

Pink pigeon conservation   

One of the most successful management actions behind the recovery of the pigeon has been the creation and management of sub-populations via reintroduction into parts of their former range. This approach is ongoing, but not without its challenges, namely; deciding where to locate new populations, understand how these populations function as part of a meta-population structure and how to manage and monitor numerous pink pigeon populations in the long-term. All of these issues need to be addressed to secure the long-term future of this species.  

Pink pigeon chick perched on branch at London Zoo
Pink pigeon sitting on a branch in Mauritius
Left, pink pigeon chick raised at London Zoo

Saving pink pigeons in Mauritius 

The ZSL Institute of Zoology is closely involved in the pink pigeon project and, along with our conservation partners, provides the scientific evidence underpinning the species recovery programme. Our conservation work at London Zoo breeding pink pigeons is directly informing the reintroduction programme in Mauritius. Advancing knowledge to make hand-rearing of pink pigeons in Mauritius more effective.    

The recovery programme is implemented by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF) and the National parks and Conservation Service (Government of Mauritius), with support from the Durrell Wildlife & Conservation Trust (DWCT) and Chester Zoo. 

We advanced the effectiveness of the pink pigeon reintroduction programme, through analysing the most efficient monitoring techniques.  Our GPS tracking research has established a better understanding of pink pigeon behaviour and populations, which continues to help conservationists today. This research has not only guided the pink pigeon conservation programme but is supporting conservation work globally. Through providing a fresh insight into how a population of a highly threatened species behaves and may be managed in the long-term.   

ZSL impact  protecting pink pigeons

  • Developing best practice for pink pigeon hand-rearing at London Zoo, which is informing reintroduction programmes in Mauritius  

  • A viable meta-population of pink pigeons in the remnant forest habitat.  

  • Established an understanding of pink pigeon population and movement ecology.  

  • A program of minimal monitoring and management.  

Our bird conservation work

  • Mauritius kestrel in tree
    One of the most successful bird recoveries in the world

    Mauritius kestrel conservation

    The Mauritius Kestrel once looked destined for extinction, with just 4 remaining individuals. But we are building an exciting route to recovery.

  • Olive white-eye bird
    Saving the rarest bird in Mauritius

    Olive white-eye conservation

    With less than 150 pairs now remaining, our work is saving a species on the brink of extinction.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • A puffin on Skellig Michael crag
    Recovering British wildlife

    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
Join the fight for wildlife

From lab to field, hands on and behind the scenes, we’re working at the cutting-edge of conservation to help identify species most at risk, deepen understanding of the underlying causes of that risk and finding practical actions to overcome those causes and create routes to recovery.