Mauritius Passerines Project
We're working alongside the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (MWF) and other partners on species recovery programmes for the cuckoo shrike (Coracina typica), Mauritius fody (Foudia rubra) and Mauritius olive white-eye (Zosterops chloronothos).
The huge amounts of forest loss in Mauritius and the introduction of various species that predate eggs and chicks have had a huge impact on the endemic birds of Mauritius, particularly the passerines. The black rat (Rattus rattus) in particular is a major factor in reduced egg and chick survival.
For both the Mauritius fody and Mauritius olive white-eye management of the populations in the wild has also been complemented with ‘marooning’ of new sub-populations on the off shore island of Ile aux Aigrettes (IAA).
Intensive efforts here have removed most of the invasive species and restored this island to represent, as far as possible, the pre-existing natural ecosystem – the island has also been developed as an important educational site, able to showcase how Mauritian forest used to be and inform students and tourists of Mauritius species and the threats they face.
There is now a well-established population of Mauritius fody and Mauritius olive white-eye on IAA, and further islands to replicate this success are currently being investigated. On-going research, assisted through the ringing of all the birds on IAA, has increase knowledge of the ecology and behaviour of these birds which has also been applied to the conservation management of the wild populations.
A major research area is investigating the best methods for rat control particularly during critical periods of the breeding cycle where eggs and chicks are at most threat. The programme for the cuckoo shrike is in its infancy and focused currently on wild populations in three sites in Black River Gorge National Park, the aim is to use conservation breeding methods to boost recruitment and our keepers are currently playing a major technical role in this aspect.