Chester Zoo has announced the hatching of two chicks belonging to a species that was declared extinct in the wild 47 years ago.
The Socorro dove originates from an island located 400 miles off the west coast of Mexico, but vanished from the wild completely in 1972.
The birds were wiped out after sheep were introduced and ate plants the doves depended on for food and shelter. Invasive species such as cats also preyed upon the birds, contributing to their demise.
Less than 200 Socorro doves now exist in zoos around the world, with just 23 in the UK – including Chester Zoo. The latest arrivals hatched on 7 November and were raised by ‘foster parents’ – a pair of barbary doves – as adult Socorro doves have a poor track record of incubating eggs and raising their own chicks.
The doves are part of a European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), with hopes to one day return the birds to their native habitat. Work is now being being carried out on Socorro Island to try and create safe areas for a future reintroduction.
Andrew Owen, the zoo’s Curator of Birds, said:
Zoos in Europe, the USA and Mexico have, for some time, been breeding Socorro doves as part of a globally managed programme which is working to return them to their ancestral home.
These chicks are significant additions to the recovery programme for the Socorro dove. It’s rather humbling to think that they could play an important role in one day seeing the species fly around the island of Soccoro once again.
For more information on visiting Chester Zoo go to www.chesterzoo.org