January 18, 2018. Life / Back from the Brink
Russell A. Mittermeier, Anthony B. Rylands, Wes Sechrest, Penny F. Langhammer, John C. Mittermeier, Michael J. Parr, William R. Konstant, Roderic B. Mast
The oceanic island of Mauritius is famed for the Dodo, the most iconic of extinct species. The Dodo disappeared in the late 17th century, and regrettably many other species on the island have also been extirpated. They are less well known, but were just as spectacular; the list is long and includes the Blue Pigeon, the flightless Red Rail, the Giant Skink, the Dark Flying Fox and the Raven Parrot.
In 1974, the known wild population of the Mauritius Kestrel numbered 4, with one breeding pair. Many felt that the species was beyond saving, although others believed that with some concerted conservation interventions, it had a fighting chance.
The Mauritius Kestrel’s decline was due to the use of DDT, widespread in the 1940s and 1950s as a pesticide, but even before then the kestrels were rare, being limited by a shortage of high-quality nest sites. By the 1980s, DDT use had been abandoned and there was suitable habitat available, but due to the patchiness of the forest, the kestrels needed help. The first clutches of eggs were removed from the nests of the last wild birds and hatched in an incubator. The young were reared in captivity. The wild pairs laid replacement clutches and were left to care for themselves. The captive-raised birds were retained for a captive population or used to repopulate the wild. From 1984 to 1994, 333 young kestrels, either captive bred or from harvested eggs, were reintroduced and readily used the provisioned nest boxes. The population in 2017 is 250–300 birds, and more birds will be released in the south of Mauritius to further increase of population.
Conservation Status: Endangered
This is an excerpt from the CEMEX Nature Series volume BACK FROM THE BRINK (2017)