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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Restoring a Bird by Restoring an Island

Restoring a Bird by Restoring an Island

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, February 1, 2017/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, birds, sustainability, environment, adventure

                Socorro Dove, the Netherlands Zoo (credit: wikicommons)

To restore an ecosystem, an extinct animal, or plant requires that you eliminate the source that caused the degredation or extinction in the first place. A potential new success story is unfolding for a dove that was once found only on the Mexican island of Socorro (Isla Socorro) lying off the tip of the Baja. According to ecological research on the isolated Mexican islands of Socorro and Guadalupe in the mid-20th Century:

"the islands were among the most unique, well preserved, and beautiful ecosystems, land and seascapes of Mexico. For a century, the island ecosystems suffered severe environmental impacts from habitat loss, soil erosion, modification of vegetation communities, and even the extinction of species, caused by the presence of introduced (ferel) species."

Socorro originally lacked land mammals but had a many indeginous bird and lizard species. Sheep, cats, and mice were introduced by people to the island when a naval base was established in the 1970's. Predation mainly by the feral cats had a dramatic impact to the island's birds. As a result, the Socorro dove became extinct in the wild. Luckily, a number of the endemic birds were captured and distributed to wildlife institutions to create a captive breeding population. Eradication of the feral cats, sheep, and mice began in 2011 with the intention of eventually restoring the captive-bred birds to Socorro. The first doves, raised by the captive breeding efforts, will be released shortly and hopefully will become re-established in their original ecosystem habitat.

Islands served as the basis for the sciences of evolution and biogeography when Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace made their landmark investigations and introduced their original findings to the mid-19th Century world. The restoration of island biodiversity, particularly unique endemic species by eliminating the destruction from the 20th Century, is a worthy and hopeful project for the 21st. There are lots of opportunities to repeat the work of the Mexicans on their own Galapagos Islands.



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