14/06/2018

Scientists confirm sighting of one of the world’s rarest birds

Conservationists from Bristol Zoological Society have confirmed a sighting of one of the rarest and most endangered birds in the world.

A team from Bristol Zoological Society travelled to Panay Island in the Philippines in search of the elusive Negros bleeding heart dove and, after five days of trekking for eight hours each day, they managed to film the bird deep in the heart of the forest.

The species is so rare that it has only been filmed in the wild a handful of times.  

It is feared there are now less than 300 pairs of Negros bleeding heart doves left in the wild, named for the bright, blood-red plumage on their white breasts.

The Zoo’s Philippines conservation project is co-led by Dr Daphne Kerhoas, a lecturer in conservation science at Bristol Zoo. Dr Kerhoas filmed the bird and described it as a ‘career highlight’.

She said: “Not only are there very few of these birds left in existence, but they are also very shy, meaning they are rarely seen. We have spent many years searching for this bird but have never before seen one outside of captivity. To finally have seen and videoed one first-hand is fantastic.”

The bird was spotted in the North West Panay Peninsula national park, where Bristol Zoological Society is now establishing a new research station to continue monitoring and studying the species.

This will allow experts to carry out in-depth studies of endangered animals living in remote and previously inaccessible areas of the forest.

Dr Kerhoas added: “With so little information existing about these birds in the wild, this sighting gives us greater hope than ever before that there is a population worth protecting and that our efforts will be channelled in the right place at the right time. We are feeling extremely optimistic for the future of the conservation project of this striking bird.”

Negros bleeding heart doves are classified as a Critically Endangered species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bristol Zoological Society has been working in the Philippines since 2000 and has now started an island-wide survey of mammals and birds on the islands of Negros and Panay.

This new research effort will allow conservationists to build a much better picture of the richness of the biodiversity of the forest. It also means Zoo conservationists will be able to devote more time and resources to studying other endangered animals in the forests, such as Visayan warty pigs, ufous-headed hornbills, Visayan tarictic hornbills and Philippine spotted deer.

The presence of researchers will also discourage illegal hunting in the area as well as generating additional income for local people.

Bristol Zoological Society will also support future conservation work being carried out by its partner organisation in the Philippines, Panaycon.

The Philippines is home to more than 20,000 endemic species of plants and animals. However, 95 per cent of the country’s forests have already been cut down, mainly to grow crops. The Society is working to protect a host of endangered species and the habitats they live in and carries out vital research into the animals that live there.

Bristol Zoological Society’s conservation project in the Philippines is sponsored by Airbus.

The Society 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.

 For more information about Bristol Zoological Society’s work in the Philippines, visit here

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