Pink Pigeons are a species of pigeon in the family Columbidae endemic to Mauritius. In 1986 the pink pigeon was on the brink of extinction, mainly due to severe deforestation. It was so bad that only 12 individual birds remained, a dramatic drop from the single population of 20 individuals which existed in the wild around the mid 1970s. Once widely distributed across Mauritius, it was thought the pink pigeon would go the way of the dodo. Fortunately an intensive conservation programme was started with the introduction of captive breeding in 1976, which prevented the pink pigeon from becoming totally extinct. The author Gerald Durrell released the first individuals back in to the wild in 1984.
This attractive bird has unusual colouring, the head, neck and underparts are pink whilst the forehead is a more whitish colour. The back is brown in colour, fading to a rusty coloured tail. The female is a duller shade than the male, the bill tip and eyes are yellow, whist the legs are red. They grow to a length of around 36-38cm. and weight is around 0.35Kg. Their diet consists of flowers, leaves and fruit of native and exotic trees.
Pink Pigeons are currently found in the Black River Gorges in the southwest of the island. Today there are around 300 pink pigeons in Mauritius and it has been downgraded from Critically Endangered to Endangered by the World Conservation Union. Although intensive management of the species is still required, in the long term, large areas of forest will need to be restored so that the Pink Pigeon can spread out into the rest of the upland forest and breed in safe nesting sites, with fewer predators.
The rescue of the pink pigeon is a fantastic success story and a great example of what with a concerted conservation effort can be achieved.
Images courtesy of Mauritius Wildlife Foundation.
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