Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, was once the home of the most iconic example of extinction – the dodo. The dodo, which was part of the same family as pigeons, was thought to be driven to extinction by over-hunting. Research suggests that the introduction of invasive species along with habitat loss were important factors too. Nobody wants the same fate for the pink pigeon.
A deceptive appearance
Despite the appearance of a lush tropical paradise, only 2% of Mauritian forest remains due to development and agriculture. Much of the greenery seen by tourists is down to plantations and trees that have been introduced for aesthetic purposes. Unsurprisingly, habitat loss contributed significantly to the decline in population, along with the introduction of invasive species.
Introduced plants, such as privet and Chinese guava, outcompeted native species, depriving pink pigeons of both food and nesting material, while introduced pigeon species brought deadly diseases such as trichomonosis, which helped to decimate the pink pigeon population.
Back from the brink
From just a few dozen individuals in the 1970s to around 500 birds today, the pink pigeon has gone from being categorised as critically endangered to vulnerable.
This has been achieved with a combination of habitat protection, the removal of predators and the reintroduction of captive-bred birds. As Paignton Zoo is home to this species, our staff were able to provide support and share knowledge about breeding and rearing pink pigeons over the course of several years