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BROCHURE RACK

Endangered Seychelles magpie-robin relocation brings hope for the species survival

17/03/2009 16:11:42
birds/2009_jan/Seychelles_magpie-robin_Collins

Seychelles magpie-robin. Still just 200 birds in existence. © Gary Ward / Durrell

Numbers up from just 12 birds to around 200 - But still critical
March 2009. A recent translocation project for the Seychelles magpie-robin is already showing signs of success following evidence that pairs have bred and the young have left the nest.

The project, run by Nature Seychelles, the main NGO in the Indian Ocean island responsible for biodiversity conservation, has helped protect the magpie-robin (Copsychus sechellarum), a bird which several decades ago had been reduced to only a dozen individuals found on just one island.

20 birds moved to new island
Durrell's Senior Bird Keeper, Gary Ward, was hosted by the project leaders, and assisted with bird translocations and the provision of expertise in captive management last summer. Gary worked alongside another organisation, the Green Island Foundation, and Nature Seychelles in the capture of twenty birds, sixteen from Frègate Island and four from the island of Cousin in preparation for their move to Denis Island.

Bird training
On arrival on Denis Island all twenty individuals were placed in identical aviaries for an additional two weeks. A second bird keeper from Durrell, Spencer Collins, then joined the team, taking over the care of the birds whilst they were in the aviaries on Denis and helping with the post-release monitoring. Spencer spent time getting the birds used to feeding from bird tables, so that supplementary food could be provided this way once they were released. They were also trained to respond to whistles, which were used to indicate feeding times. This training process was crucial for attracting the birds once released, allowing the team to get close enough so their health and wellbeing could be monitored. The birds were released in pairs across the island in suitable habitats and their movements and territory formations continue to be monitored by the team on Denis Island.

Seychelles magpie-robin. Still critically endangered. Photo credit © Spencer Collins / Durrell.

Seychelles magpie-robin. Still critically endangered. Photo credit © Spencer Collins / Durrell.

Nesting & successful breeding

Very quickly there were positive signs that the birds had established themselves well, with evidence of nesting in several locations. Six months after the translocation, there have been significant developments with at least two successful breeding attempts. Signs are good that the population will continue to increase, further adding to the stabilisation of this endangered species.

Population has grown from 12 - 200 birds
Several decades ago this inquisitive bird had reduced in number to as little as twelve individuals, confined to the island of Frègate. Following many years of habitat restoration and invasive species control numbers started to increase. In the 1990s translocations of magpie-robins were carried out, which saw populations established on three other islands, including Cousin. Today, figures remain at less than 200 individuals, so it is hoped this recent translocation will further increase numbers and the range of this species.

Gary Ward, Senior Bird Keeper at Durrell, is delighted with the progress so far; "This translocation is a fantastic example of how bird keeping expertise, developed through captive management, can be highly beneficial when applied to conservation of endangered species in the wild. Organisations working in unison and bringing different skills together on a project such as this is how many species recovery programs are moving forward."

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