Endangered Socorro Doves Arrive at the Albuquerque Zoo

 

 

For Immediate Release: November 20, 2008

 

Species Extinct in the Wild to be Bred for Return to Its Native Island


The Endangered Socorro Dove, Photo: Island Endemics.

(Albuquerque, NM) Today, partners of the Socorro Dove Project are pleased to announce the arrival of captive-bred Socorro Doves at the Albuquerque Zoo, an important step towards their eventual reintroduction to the wild. The Socorro Dove Project is an international endeavour of more than 25 institutions in twelve countries whose common objective is to return the rare Socorro Dove, which is now extinct in the wild, to its ancestral home on Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, México. The Socorro Dove Project began 20 years ago thanks to the efforts of the late Dr. Luis Baptista, founder of the Island Endemics Foundation.

 

“Returning the Socorro Dove to its native habitat will be a significant conservation achievement,” said Helen Horblit of Island Endemics Foundation. “This is a species that was on the brink of extinction and that has been absent from the wild for over forty years.”

 

This species was saved from extinction thanks to individuals brought to California by a California Academy of Science’s Expedition from the Revillagigedo Islands in the 1920s. Their offspring were later shared with private aviculturists in both the United States and Europe. The European Endangered Species Program (EEP) of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) today manages the only population with a genetic make up consistent with pure Socorro Doves.

 

The Socorro Doves arriving at Albuquerque Zoo were provided by two members of the EEP in the United Kingdom (Edinburgh and Paignton Zoos). More individuals are expected at a later time from other participants of the EEP to guarantee that individuals brought back to Socorro Island represent a thorough sample of the remaining genetic diversity.

 

“We are thrilled that decades of caring for this species are soon going to result in its return to the wild,” said Stefan G. Stadler, EEP Co-coordinator from the Frankfurt Zoo. “Literally hundreds of scientists and aviculturists have made this possible through their painstaking efforts since the 1920s.”

 

Steps are being taken for the dove’s repatriation in Mexico. The Mexican Navy, the Island Endemics Foundation and Endemicos Insulares have built a state-of-the-art breeding station on Socorro Island. The breeding program on the island will be coordinated by Island Endemics/Endemicos Insulares in close co-operation with the EEP and the support of curators and breeders from several partner institutions of the Socorro Dove Project around the globe.

 

“The Socorro Dove Project has a high chance of success because Socorro is the Mexican island with the highest regeneration potential,” said Juan E. Martinez-Gomez of Endemicos Insulares. “The northern side of the island maintains nearly intact vegetation, visiting these areas is like a trip to the past...and also to the island's future."

“Bringing a species back from the brink of extinction doesn’t happen every day,” said George Wallace, Vice President of International Programs for American Bird Conservancy, which funded some of the research needed for a successful reintroduction. “It’s yet another example of how conservation groups and institutions can make great things happen when they work together to achieve a bold vision.”


For additional information, please view the following fact sheet or contact:

In the United States: , Curator of Birds, Albuquerque Biological Park, 505-764-6258.

, Island Endemics Foundation, 415-309-1105.

, American Bird Conservancy, 202-234-7181.

In Mexico: , Endemicos Insulares, 5212281333694, juan.martinez@inecol.edu.mx.

In Europe: , Frankfurt Zoo, 49 69-212-34428.

, 0131-334-9171.

Jo Gregson, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, jo.gregson@paigntonzoo.org.uk


# 30 #


Palomas de Socorro en Peligro de Extinción llegan al Zoológico de Albuquerque

Especie extinta en la vida Silvestre llega para su reproducción y reintroducción a su Isla Nativa

(Albuquerque, 20 de noviembre de 2008) El día de hoy, los colaboradores del Proyecto Paloma de Socorro se complacen en informar la llegada de Palomas de Socorro criadas en cautiverio al Zoológico de Albuquerque, un paso importante para su eventual reintroducción en la vida silvestre. El Proyecto Paloma de Socorro constituye un esfuerzo internacional en el que participan más de 25 instituciones en 12 países cuyo objetivo común es retornar a la Paloma de Socorro, ahora extinta en la vida silvestre, a su hogar ancestral en Isla Socorro, Archipiélago de Revillagigedo, México. El Proyecto Paloma de Socorro dio inicio hace 20 años gracias a los esfuerzos del ahora finado Dr. Luis Baptista, fundador de la Island Endemics Foundation.

 

“Regresar a la Paloma de Socorro a su hábitat nativo constituye un gran logró en el terreno de la biología de la conservación” afirmó Helen Horblit de la Island Endemics Foundation. “Esta es una especie al borde de la extinción que ha estado ausente en la vida Silvestre por más de 40 años.”

 

Esta especie fue salvada de la extinción gracias a las palomas que llevaron a California los miembros de la Tercera Expedición al Archipiélago de Revillagigedo auspiciada por la California Academy of Sciences en los años 1920´s. Sus descendientes fueron compartidos posteriormente con avicultores privados en los Estados Unidos y Europa. El Programa Europeo de Especies en Peligro de Extinción (EEP por sus siglas en inglés) de la Asociación Europea de Zoológicos y Acuarios (EAZA por sus siglas en inglés) maneja actualmente a la única población que tiene un acervo genético consistente con el de Palomas de Socorro puras.

 

Las Palomas de Socorro que llegaron al Zoológico de Albuquerque fueron proporcionadas por dos miembros del Programa EEP en el Reino Unido (Zoológicos de Edinburgh y Paignton). Se esperan más individuos en un futuro cercano de otros participantes en el EEP lo que garantizará que los individuos que se retornen a Isla Socorro representen adecuadamente a la diversidad genética que aún permanece.

 

“Nos emociona las décadas de cuidar a esta especie en cautiverio pronto vayan a resultar en su retorno a la vida silvestre” dijo Stefan G. Stadler del Zoológico de Frankfurt y Coordinador del EEP . “En un sentido literal han sido cientos de avicultores y científicos quiénes hicieron esto posible a través de sus esfuerzos desde los años 1920´s.”

Se están tomando medidas para llevar a cabo la repatriación de la Paloma de Socorro a México. La Armada de México, la Island Endemics Foundation y Endémicos Insulares han construido una estación de cría moderna en Isla. El programa de cría en la isla sera coordinado por la Island Endemics Foundation/Endémicos Insulares en cercana colaboración con el EEP y el apoyo de curadores y criadores de varias instituciones que apoyan al Proyecto Paloma de Socorro en el mundo.

“El Proyecto Paloma de Socorro tiene una gran posibilidad de éxito porque Socorro es la isla Mexicana con el más alto potencial de regeneración” afirmó Juan E. Martínez-Gómez de Endémicos Insulares. “ La parte norte de la isla mantiene una vegetación casi intacta, visitar estas áreas es como viajar al pasado… y también al futuro de la isla."

“Recuperar a una especie que estaba al borde de la extinción no ocurre cada día,” dijo George Wallace, Vice Presidente de Programas Internacionales de la American Bird Conservancy (ABC por sus siglas en inglés), institución que ha financiado parte de las investigaciones necesarias para llevar a cabo una reintroducción exitosa. “Este es un ejemplo más de cómo grupos conservacionistas y otras instituciones pueden realizar grandes logros cuando trabajan unidas guiadas por un sueño audaz.”

 

Para información adicional, por favor revise la sinópsis informativa que se anexa o contacte a:

 

En los Estados Unidos: , Curator of Birds, Albuquerque Biological Park, 505-764-6258.

, Island Endemics Foundation, 415-309-1105.

, American Bird Conservancy, 202/234-7181.

En México: , Endemicos Insulares, 011 52 1 228 133 3694, juan.martinez@inecol.edu.mx.

En Europe: , Frankfurt Zoo.

, 0131-334-9171.

Jo Gregson, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, jo.gregson@paigntonzoo.org.uk

 


# 30 #

 

BACKGROUND

 

Historic status of the birds

The Socorro Dove (Zenaida graysoni) was endemic to Socorro Island. Discovered in the 16th century by Spanish explorers, Socorro is the largest of the four islands that make up the Revillagigedo Archipelago. It is located in the Eastern Pacific ocean about 700 kilometers (about 430 miles) due west of the Mexican city of Manzanillo and 480 km (290miles) south of the tip of Baja California. The island covers about 132 square kilometers (about 51 square miles) and is about 16.5 kilometers x 11.5 kilometers (about 10.3 x 7.1 miles).

The Socorro Dove was first described by 19th century American naturalist Andrew Jackson Grayson. According to the early reports by the California Academy of Sciences expeditions, the bird was once common across the island. However, virtually nothing is known about their breeding behavior in the wild. The reasons for the bird’s decline are complex.

In 1869 sheep were introduced onto the island resulted in slow degradation of the dove’s lowland habitats. Currently, the southern part of Socorro shows severe signs of overgrazing such as loss of plant cover, presence of exotic or introduced plants, and lack of seedlings or saplings from native plants that play an important role in maintaining the natural vegetation. In 1957, the Mexican navy set up a military base on the island, establishing a permanent presence on the island.

The last confirmed sighting of the dove in the wild was in 1972 and it was officially declared extinct in the wild in 1978.

 

As a consequence, the late Professor Luis F. Baptista of the California Academy of Sciences established contacts with both the Mexican authorities and the European Socorro Dove breeding community. He also founded Island Endemics Foundation (IE), the principal conservation organization dedicated to overcoming the ecological problems facing the Revillagigedo Archipelago, and to achieving the repatriation of the Socorro Dove to its ancestral island. Helen Horblit has continued Luis Baptista’s work ever since his death in 2000 in close co-operation with his former student Juan E. Martines Gomez who is running the Mexican branch of IE, Endemicos Insulares.


The international partnership for moving Socorro doves to the U.S. includes:

 

In Mexico:

Endemicos Insulares
The Mexican Navy

Mexican Environmental authorities have also helped by facilitating the permitting process.

In Europe:

Frankfurt Zoo
Edinburgh Zoo
Paignton Zoo

Other members of the EEP will contribute a selected set of doves for future transfers.


In the U.S.:

Island Endemics Foundation
Albuquerque Biological Park

The captive population

The species was established in both U.S. and European collections beginning in the 1920’s.

 

The species was saved in the aviaries of private pigeon and dove breeders. From the birds imported into the United Kingdom (UK), a breeding stock was maintained over several decades in the hands of private aviculturists. A first, though still not scientifically managed, a breeding program was initiated by the German Interest Group for Wild Pigeons and Doves - under the leadership of Kurt Meier - in the late 1980s who were later contacted by Frankfurt and Cologne zoos for a closer co-operation. In 1995, this rather informal breeding program was turned into an official European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) under the auspices of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). In the late 1990s, Marlow Bird Park in Germany, headed by Matthias Haase, decided to build a special breeding unit for the propagation of this species, and this was the turning point towards the success of the breeding program.

 

The international breeding program for the Socorro Dove managed by the EEP has been co-ordinated ever since its launch in 1995 by Stefan Stadler at the Frankfurt Zoo. A studbook is maintained and based on these data, the population is periodically analyzed regarding its genetic and demographic status. As a result, breeding recommendations and transfers of doves are co-ordinated through the studbook keeper affecting the 22 zoos currently participating in the program.

Although there is currently another population of Socorro Doves in private aviaries, several birds, especially in the United States (U.S.), are known to have been hybridized with the closely related Mourning Dove. Fortunately, there are currently about 100 birds kept in the European EEP collections that have been tested and are considered to be pure Socorro Doves.

 

Husbandry

Socorro Doves are typically maintained as pairs. They have a propensity to be very aggressive and need a highly structured environment to achieve optimal breeding and rearing success. Attempts are made to allow birds to select their own partners - whenever the genetic situation allows for such an approach - in order to establish compatible pairs and increase reproductive success.

 

When nesting, the birds choose a secluded nest site off the ground and build a stick nest. They will also nest on platforms, but these should be well covered. The clutch of two to three eggs hatch after an incubation period of 14 – 17 days. The chicks fledge at some 14 – 20 days of age and become independent of their parents at about six weeks of age. Both male and female incubate as in all members of the columbid family, and both parents will help rearing the chicks. The fledglings can be reproductive at 6 months of age.

Diet is composed of seeds, fruits and, especially during rearing of the young, insects. The typical life span is 10 – 12 years.

 

Moving birds to Albuquerque

 

The decision to move birds to the U.S. was made for several reasons:

  • to establish a satellite population outside Europe in case Avian Influenza (or any other infectious disease) might affect future efforts to move birds into Mexico.
  • to free up space in European collections to facilitate the expansion of the European population.
  • to form the basis of a breeding population on the North American continent.
  • to give a strong signal to all the Mexican authorities that the Socorro Dove community on both sides of the Atlantic led by the Island Endemics / Endemicos Insulares Foundation and the EEP is strongly committed to the reintroduction project and prepared to deliver Socorro Doves for the repatriation to their ancestral island when the necessary preconditions are met.

The process of moving birds to the U.S. required months of planning on both sides of the Atlantic. The EEP coordinator identified 12 birds (six males and six females) from two EEP participants (Edinburgh/UK Zoo and Paington/UK Zoo; thanks to Colin Oulton, Colin Bath and Jo Gregson for all their efforts) as the best candidates for this transfer. Edinburgh received seven birds from Paignton and along with their five birds, put the group into isolation and performed veterinary medical screenings.

Meanwhile, permits and associated paperwork were compiled on both sides of the Atlantic. The UK required export documents which were arranged by Jo Elliott at Edinburgh Zoo. At the same time, U.S. authorities required import documents which were prepared by both Helen Horblit of Island Endemics, and Peter Shannon of the Albuquerque Zoo (AZ).

With all the paperwork in place, the group of 12 birds boarded a British Airways flight on 16 October 2008 and arrived in Los Angeles the next day. From there, the birds were transported under the guidance of Island Endemics and Albuquerque Zoo to the United States Department of Agriculture’s quarantine station in San Diego where they were isolated for the required 30 days. After no problems arose during this quarantine, the birds were transported to the Albuquerque Zoo.

Once in Albuquerque, mate selection trials will be started to establish compatible pairs. Hopefully reproduction will begin in the spring of 2009 and a stable, expanding North American population will be established. Under this scenario, Socorro Doves can be repatriated to their ancestral home once critical preconditions for their arrival have been met on Socorro Island.

 

The next steps

While the captive population of Socorro Doves expands in Europe and the U.S., restoration efforts on Socorro Island will pave the way for eventual reintroduction of doves to their native habitat.

 

Restoration efforts will also help other bird species on the island including the Socorro Mockingbird, the Socorro Parakeet, and the Townsend’s Shearwater. In addition, these efforts will benefit the whole ecosystem on the island, and also the coastal sea habitat around it.

 

“Extinction is forever”, and this holds not only for the large and attractive birds and mammals, but also for the many small, but ecologically no less important plants and invertebrate animal species on this globe. The endemic Elf owl has already become extinct on Socorro. Therefore, the Socorro Dove plays the crucial role of serving as a high profile flagship species for the conservation of a whole island ecosystem.