Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on November 9, 2009
Since reports of endangered animals usually follow the same trajectory, I’m thrilled to report an anomaly.
For three-quarters of a century, the Mauritius Echo Parakeet has been dying out at an alarming rate. When the breed entered the “critically endangered” category on the World Conservation Union’s annual Red List of threatened species, it was expected to go the way of the dodo.
But after years of controlled breeding experiments, this bird has done an incredible thing: not only has it managed to hang on to life, it’s actually upped its status from “critically endangered” to simply “endangered”.
That’s still cause for concern, of course, but it is worth nothing that out of 16,306 species, it is the only success story on this year’s Red List.
In 1990, the entire Mauritius Echo Parakeet population consisted of 12 birds, only three of which were female. But thanks to Carl Jones and the people at the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, that number is now over a hundred and growing.
During the 1700s and early 1800s, the dark green, black-collared echo parakeet thrived on the island nation of Mauritius, living primarily in lowland forests and scrublands. WHY this beautiful creature’s population began to drop so significantly is not definitively known (hunting is one possible cause, as is the excessive clearing of the lowland forest and the introduction of non-indigenous animals that competed for food and destroyed the habitat), but WHEN has been pinpointed to a period between 1870 and 1900. By the middle of the 20th century, the bird was rapidly approaching extinction, with 50 or 60 estimated to exist by the early 1970s.
Attempts at controlled breeding began at the end of the ‘70s but there were no successful births until 1993 because of rampant disease and poorly understood dietary requirements. Between 1999 and 2000, 19 captive-breds were released into the wild, and to date there have been a total of 139 Mauritius Echo Parakeets born in captivity.
Hang in there, Mr. Parakeet. Here’s to wishful thinking for next year’s Red List!