Socorro Island is the "Most important single site for endangered bird conservation in North America"
October 2013. For the first time in four decades, the critically endangered Socorro Dove has returned to its native country of Mexico, thanks to a captive breeding program involving 33 organizations in 12 countries.
Extinct in the wild in 1972
The Socorro Dove was endemic to Socorro Island on the Revillagigedo Archipelago, approximately 400 miles southwest of the west Mexican city of Puerto Vallarta. The last record of the species in its natural habitat dates from 1972. Introduced mammals likely drove it to extinction through predation and habitat destruction.
113 doves in captivity
Mexico's role in the conservation breeding program was ramped up earlier this year when six Socorro Doves were moved from facilities at New Mexico's Albuquerque BioPark to Africam Safari, located near Mexico City. Today, facilities in Europe, the United States, and now Mexico breed Socorro Doves in their aviaries as part of the globally managed breeding program. Altogether, there are approximately 70 doves in Europe, 37 in the U.S., and six in Mexico.
Dr. Luis Baptista, founder of the Island Endemics Foundation, initiated the Socorro Dove Project in 1987-1988 after corroborating that a viable population existed in human care. The ultimate goal of the project is to return Socorro Doves to Socorro Island. After Baptista's death in 2000, Juan Martínez-Gómez joined the foundation and crafted a collaborative program with the Mexican Navy. By 2004, a breeding station funded by the Island Endemics Foundation and the Mexican Navy had been built on Socorro Island. However, in 2005, concerns about the potential for spreading avian influenza from Europe prevented the return of the doves to Mexico. In order to move closer to the goal of returning the birds to their home country, Socorro Doves bred by zoos participating in the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria's European Endangered Species Program were sent to the Albuquerque BioPark in 2008.
In April 2013, after careful planning with Frank Carlos Camacho, Director of Africam Safari, the conservation breeding program was successfully extended to Mexico. Plans for the reintroduction of Socorro Doves to Socorro Island are underway with the collaboration of SEGOB, SEMAR, and SEMARNAT, along with César Tejeda at Endémicos Insulares, Helen Horblit at the Island Endemics Foundation, Juan Martínez-Gómez at Mexico's Instituto de Ecología (INECOL), and Patricia Escalante at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) Institute of Biology.