Mauritius: A total of four Olive White-eye and nine Echo Parakeet birds were released today, at the Ebony Forest, in Chamarel, with the aim to improve the genetic heterogeneity of these species.
The Director of the National Parks and Conservation Service (NPCS), Mr Kevin Ruhomaun; the General Manager of the Ebony Forest Ltd (EFL), Mrs Christine Griffiths; and the Conservation Manager of the EFL, Mr Nicolas Zuel, were present at the site.
This joint initiative of the NPCs and the EFL has as its objective to promote the population of the Olive White-eye and Echo parakeet birds in the region and outside the national parks. The Olive White-eyes and Echo Parakeets population are restricted to the areas of the Black River Gorges National Park, which is a Biosphere Reserve.
The establishment of the new sub-populations will help to minimise the impacts caused by natural calamities such as cyclones, droughts, diseases and epidemics, which can cause a single population to decrease drastically, thus putting at risk the survival of the species.
In a statement, Mr Ruhomaun pointed out that the release of the birds is a continuity of the NPCS’s long-term project to restore the population of these endangered species. He expressed optimism for the release of more birds for the next season.
For her part, Mrs Griffiths from the EFL indicated that the activity follows the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the NPCs in April last year, aiming to foster public-private partnership in the conservation field. She dwelt on the commitment of the EFL to save these endemic birds and enhance conservation efforts.
As for Mr Zuel, he indicated that there are less than 200 Olive White-eyes and around 800 Echo Parakeets in the country. These birds, he added, are released at the Ebony Forest as predators are better controlled in this site.
About the Olive White-eye (Zosterops chloronothos) – Oiseau à Lunettes
The Mauritius Olive White-eye, classified as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, was once widespread across Mauritius. The population declined dramatically from 350 pairs in 1975 to only 80 pairs in 2012.
The main threats include rats, macaques, the Red Whiskered Bulbul as well as the Mauritius Black Bulbul, which destroy the nests. The degradation of the habitat and the introduction of exotic plants contributed to the decrease in the population, reducing nectar availability from several endemic flowers.
A Species Recovery Programme was initiated in 2005, during which artificial incubation of eggs and hand rearing of chicks were performed at the Government aviary in Black River. A sub-population has been established at Ile aux Aigrettes, and supplementary feeding is performed. Good Nature Traps have been introduced to better control the population of rats and shrews in the Black River Gorges.
The Government of Mauritius has signed an MOU with the Chester Zoo for conservation works on the Olive White-eye in collaboration with local Partners.
About the Echo Parakeet (Alexandrinus eques)
The Echo Parakeet was once present all around the country, and only about 20 were believed to exist in the wild in Mauritius in the 1980s.
The decline was due to the destruction and degradation of their forest habitat for agricultural purposes. The Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, as well as extreme weather events such as cyclones, are possible threats to the Echo Parakeet.
After years of conservation works by the NPCs, the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and other partners, the population has recovered over 800 birds. A total of 10 Juvenile Echo Parakeets were released at the Ebony Forest in February 2022. Ten more birds will be released later this year.