Jurong Bird Park home to possibly half the world's Santa Cruz Ground-Dove population

17 Aug 2018
A hundred and twelve Santa Cruz Ground-Doves rescued from the clutch of poachers have become the last hope for their kind after a volcano eruption wiped out a large proportion of the species endemic to Tinakula, one of Solomon Islands’ numerous isles. Sixty doves from this fateful group have been shipped from Solomon Islands to Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park to form an assurance colony with the hope of repopulating their homeland when circumstances allow.  

A rescued endangered male Santa Cruz Ground-Dove in the biosecurity compounds in the Solomon Islands, awaiting export to Singapore. Jurong Bird Park now holds half of the world’s probable remaining population as an assurance colony.

PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

 

A hundred and twelve Santa Cruz Ground-Doves rescued from the clutch of poachers have become the last hope for their kind after a volcano eruption wiped out a large proportion of the species endemic to Tinakula, one of Solomon Islands’ numerous isles. Sixty doves from this fateful group have been shipped from Solomon Islands to Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park to form an assurance colony with the hope of repopulating their homeland when circumstances allow.   

In November 2017, OceansWatch, a non-governmental organisation based out of the Solomon Islands, rescued the doves from poachers and BirdLife International reached out to Jurong Bird Park to provide emergency medical and husbandry aid. Jurong Bird Park’s Assistant Curator Ivan Choo flew over 6,000km to the Islands with his avian husbandry knowledge and emergency medical supplies to stabilise the world’s known remaining Santa Cruz Ground-Doves population, and to improve their temporary aviaries.

At the same time, a Santa Cruz Ground-Dove working group was quickly formed, and one of the members—Toledo Zoo & Aquarium—funded a conservationist to look after the immediate and daily needs of the ground-doves in a protected government compound. It is believed that the rescued doves are probably the bulk remainder of the species, and while these doves are currently listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, they are likely to be uplisted to critically endangered when proper assessment can be performed.

Given the challenging and precarious situations in the doves’ native habitat, the working group, together with the Solomon Islands’ Department of Agriculture, decided that it would be prudent not to keep the bulk of the remaining population of the birds in one location. Thus as part of the recovery plan for the species an assurance colony of 60 specimens should be established in Jurong Bird Park, a decision arrived at given due consideration to the park’s well-established expertise in aviculture and relative geographical proximity to the doves’ native habitat.

In July, at the request of the Solomon Islands government, Jurong Bird Park’s avian veterinarian, Dr Neo Peici, flew to the Islands to conduct pre-export health checks on the doves for export to Singapore. Two weeks later, while Singaporeans were celebrating their nation’s 53rd birthday, Dr Neo and Mr Choo flew back to the Islands, this time to bring home 35 male and 25 female Santa Cruz Ground-Doves, destined to form the world’s only assurance colony outside of the Islands.

Jurong Bird Park will be spearheading an ex-situ breeding programme for this species, which would begin by checking the genetic relatedness of the birds before matching the birds to ensure genetic diversity.  Jurong Bird Park will be the international coordinator of this species to establish a sustainable population of the ground-doves in human care with the ultimate objective of reintroducing them (or their offspring) to their native habitat.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “The calamity that befell the Santa Cruz Ground-doves was dire and our professional animal carers were able to respond swiftly and with good planning, we were able to bring the precious birds to a safe environment in our park within a relatively short time. Every animal species is precious and once lost, can never be recovered. We are honoured to be playing a crucial role in the ongoing mission to save this endemic dove of the Solomon Islands, alongside likeminded colleagues from the zoo fraternity and the Solomon Island government authorities.”

Mr Jeff Sailer, President/Chief Executive Officer, Toledo Zoo & Aquarium, said: “The rescue of the Santa Cruz Ground-Doves is an amazing example of the international zoo community’s willingness and ability to conserve the world’s endangered wildlife. Zoos in Singapore, the United States, and Europe worked together to save this beautiful bird. The Toledo Zoo is proud to have provided the care for these birds in the Solomon Islands while they awaited shipment to Singapore.”

The doves are currently undergoing a one-month quarantine, and thereafter would be on display at the park’s Wings of Asia exhibit, which houses other threatened birds from the Indo-Pacific region such as the Bali Mynah, Black-winged Mynah, Edward’s Pheasant, Blue-crowned Laughingthrush and Straw-headed Bulbul to name a few. Jurong Bird Park, under the Wildlife Reserves Singapore Group, places conservation at the heart of its operations. It is involved in a number of avian conservation projects in Singapore and around the region, such as the Straw-headed Bulbul, the Yellow-crested and Philippine Cockatoos, Helmeted Hornbill, and the Bali Mynah.

 

Jurong Bird Park’s Assistant Curator, Mr Ivan Choo holding a female Santa Cruz Ground-Dove while Dr Neo Peici (right), Jurong Bird Park’s avian veterinarian, conducts pre-flight checks.

PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Dr Neo Peici preparing the doves’ in-flight meals, which consisted of water, maize and watermelon slices.

PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

All packed and ready to go. Assistant Curator Mr Ivan Choo carrying one of the seven crates containing the endangered doves, out of the Solomon Islands’ biosecurity compound. Sixty doves departed for Singapore on 10 August.

PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

Assistant Curator Mr Ivan Choo releases one of the male Santa Cruz Ground-Doves into the park’s quarantine facility on 11 August. The doves will remain in quarantine for a month.

PHOTO CREDITS: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE