15 Feb 2019
The Pink Pigeon is no longer Endangered. But how did conservationists achieve this, and is it sustainable? Dr Vikash Tatayah, Conservation Director, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (BirdLife Partner) reports from the field…
Last year, one of Mauritius’ best-loved birds hit a milestone that delighted the conservation world. In the Nesoenas mayeri was downlisted from Endangered to Vulnerable, building upon the success of 2000, when it was downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered. But behind the scenes of this happy news lies over 30 years of gruelling devotion, with conservationists tackling the numerous threats to the pigeon from every possible angle in their bid to bring it back from the brink., the Pink Pigeon
For a while, we were worried it might go the same way as its fellow Mauritian endemic, the Dodo Raphus cucullatus. An even closer relative, the Reunion Pigeon Nesoenas duboisi, went extinct on the neighbouring Reunion Island in the late 18th century thanks to introduced cats and rats. The Pink Pigeon now holds the unenviable title of the last native pigeon in the whole Mascarene archipelago.
Predictably, it was the arrival of humans that heralded the Pink Pigeon’s decline. The species was once widely distributed across Mauritius, but by the 19th century its population had become extremely fragmented and confined to the upland forests. Humans had destroyed native vegetation to the extent that only 1.5% of the original, good-quality forest remained. They also hunted the plump bird and introduced a panoply of predators such as Black Rat Rattus rattus, Small Indian Mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus and Crab-eating Macaque Macaca fascicularis.