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05/03/2019

Bristol Zoological Society helps critically endangered birds

The number of Negros bleeding-heart doves has fallen to dangerously low levels in their native Philippines and Bristol Zoological Society has brought together the only two organisations in the world which breed them.

The first transfer of bleeding-heart doves is due to take place in the coming weeks between the Centre for Tropical Conservation Studies, hosted by Silliman University, and the Conservation Breeding Center of the Talarak Foundation.

Six bleeding-heart doves – four females and two males – are making the 110km journey by road between the two centres.

Bristol Zoological Society’s  Dr Daphne Kerhoas, lecturer in Conservation Science and co-lead for the Philippines Field Project organised the first meeting in a decade between the two breeding centres three years ago.

Discussions have been taking place between all parties and this transfer further develops the collaboration between these important breeding centres and the threatened species that they manage.

Dr Kerhoas said: “This is a really important step forward, it is so important that they are collaborating. We really hope this transfer will be the first of many between the two centres.”

She said there were in total fewer than 80 of these distinctive birds at the two breeding centres so the transfer would help extend the gene pool from which they were bred.

Nigel Simpson, operations manager at Bristol Zoo’s Wild Place Project, said “After several years of breeding in each centre it is great to see this collaboration that will benefit the species and the role of captive breeding in the conservation of this species”.

Dr Kerhoas said the bleeding-heart doves were vitally important because they were an “umbrella species” meaning their survival will ensure the future of other species that share their habitat.

“They are also a flagship species, very charismatic but very hard indeed to see in the wild,” she said.

Fernando Gutierez, president of the Talarak Foundation, said “Our breeding centres are vitally important for the future of this species. After seeing the captive population grow, it is good to exchange birds between both of us”.

Dr Robert Guinoo, chair of the Biological Dept. at Silliman University, said: “From the original birds that first arrived at CENTROP several years ago, I am really pleased to see the growth in numbers we have seen and that we are now collaborating between our two zoos for the benefit of the species”.

Bristol Zoological Society, along with sponsors Airbus, have donated money to help maintain an aviary in the Philippines for some of the bleeding-heart doves kept in CENTROP.

In June, Dr Kerhoas and Mr Simpson are travelling to the Philippines to help write a Conservation Action Plan for the birds.

They are currently listed as Critically Endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature with an estimated wild population of fewer than 300 adult birds.

The birds, which get their name from the distinctive patch of red plumage on their chests, are at risk of extinction from habitat loss and hunting.

The plan, which will be drafted in collaboration with the Philippines’ government and other stakeholders, will detail where the birds are found, the threats they face, and where funds can be spent to help protect them. The captive birds will also be considered within this plan and how they can be used to bolster the wild population.

Dr Kerhoas said: “It will hopefully form a blueprint for the conservation of Negros bleeding-heart doves for years to come.”

Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Bristol Zoo Gardens and Wild Place Project, is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the Zoo but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents. 

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