More birds bouncing back – the world is watching

Last week we reported on how the Seychelles Scops Owl came to be taken off the ‘critical list’ of endangered species. We are pleased to tell readers about further momentous news for some of Seychelles’ rarest bird species.

Seychelles Magpie Robin © S. Hazell

Seychelles White-eye © Dave Currie

Seychelles Fody © Martin Harvey

The Seychelles Magpie-robin or Pi Santez is one of the most well known threatened birds in the world. We are delighted to say that it has also now been taken off the ‘critcally endangered’ list.

The Magpie-robin has been the subject of an intensive recovery programme since the 1990s. This has involved intensive habitat restoration and translocation of birds to islands from which it had disappeared. This work has been supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) working alongside Nature Seychelles as BirdLife partners, and with backing from island managers and the Seychelles government .  

The Seychelles Magpie-robin population is increasing, with around 140 - 150 birds now on Cousin, Cousine, Fregate and Aride islands. In the 1960s it was confined solely to Fregate with a population fluctuating between 10 and 50 birds. Since then detailed research, habitat management, rat eradication and translocation of birds have been carried out. The goal had been to achieve a population of 200 mature birds on six islands within the granitic Seychelles, and downlist the species from Critical to Endangered by 2006. The fact that it has had a stable population of over 50 individuals for five years meets the criteria for downlisting, so this has been achieved already.

The world is watching this tremendous achievement. It shows that conservation of birds and wider biodiversity is working, against a global backdrop of species declines and even extinctions. The Magpie-robin is one of only a few species worldwide that have so far been downlisted as a result of conservation action. This terrific achievement, in world conservation terms, is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of all involved.

Another bird species found only in Seychelles – the Seychelles white-eye or Zwazo Linet - has also been downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered. This has been done because recent assessments by the Seychelles government reveal no evidence for declines in habitat quantity or quality, which had been previously inferred. However, this remains a priority species for action, as much of the world population is confined to the small island of Conception. In a sense, almost all of the ‘eggs are in one basket’ for this species. Translocating the species to suitably restored and protected islands will spread the risk and help secure it further.

The next downlisting may be the Seychelles Fody or Toktok from Vulnerable to Near Threatened, which would remove it from the Red List. The population newly translocated to Denis island in February 2004 should be self-sustaining before this is done.

As we stated last week regarding the Scops Owl, if any new evidence arises to suggest that the population of any of these species is declining, or the habitat quantity or quality is decreasing, then they will be re-classified by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Responsibility for carrying out the evaluations and providing detailed information for all the world’s wild birds rests with BirdLife International, the official Red Listing Authority for birds. BirdLife relies heavily on inputs from national experts and on scientific evidence to evaluate status. For more details you can read our magazine Zwazo.

Nature Seychelles, published on Regar Newspaper on 29 August 2005

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Seychelles Nature, Green HealthClimate Change, Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainability Organisation

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Email: nature@seychelles.net