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Dodo relative lives, but only just!

By Paul Robinson - 25 Jan 2014 10:1:0 GMT
Dodo relative lives, but only just!

Island endemics throughout the Pacific have disappeared in the past. This is a wonderful chance for us to jump in and find out why this bird has been disappearing fast from its small populations, leaving only endangered vestiges of their former colonies; Manumea image; Credit: © Moe Uili

Dodos did it; their relatives, the passenger pigeons did it, and now another pigeon is on the same road to extinction. The little dodo, manumea or tooth-billed pigeon, Didunculus strigirostris lives only in Samoa and has just been surveyed on the northern Savai'i island. It happens to be the national bird, but a rapid decline in population from 4800 in 1991 to 200 in 2012 has caused alarm signals worldwide.

Fauna and Flora International report that some of the remaining birds, including one juvenile, have been spotted on the island, with the island of Upolu to be surveyed next. Conservation is falling down somewhere with chicks apparently failing to mature, and villagers are being urged to help its survival where it has been observed recently.

Government researchers are supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme with local, Ministry and international representatives forming a committee to put forward recovery plans. It is their leader, Moeumu Uili, who is arguing with villagers and government that, "in order to conserve this species it is essential that the biology and ecology of the bird is known, so that informed decisions can be made." It is to be hoped that he can enable cooperation on all Samoan islands and quickly find more of the remaining birds, so that they can be protected more carefully.

In the 17th century, nobody formed a committee for the Dodo, as far as we know. Who knows what could have happened if a Mr.Uili had spoken out then and protected the giant pigeon from rats, cats, pigs and sailors!

Sarah Rakowski writes more in Fauna and Flora International.