Once widespread on Mauritius and Réunion, by the end of the 1980’s the Echo Parakeet (Psittacula echo) was on the brink of extinction with less than 20 individuals remaining in just 50km2 of the Black River Gorges National Park.
An intensive management recovery programme for the parakeet was launched in 1997. The programme included supplementary feeding, artificial nestboxes and nest site management in the wild. In addition egg harvesting, hand-rearing and chick fostering were implemented to boost population growth; Chester Zoo bird keepers provided valuable skills and training during this phase.
In 2005, an outbreak of the highly infectious Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, meant that much of the intensive management had to be stopped but the wild population continues to be managed and monitored. This long-term management programme has led to a remarkable recovery – in 2007 the echo parakeet was downlisted from Critically Endangered to Endangered by the IUCN, and in 2019, downlisted further to Vulnerable.
There are currently two sub-populations of echo parakeet in the Black River Gorges National Park and over recent years, translocations have successfully established new populations in Ferney Valley and the Ebony Forest Reserve. Research and monitoring across all populations continues with a focus on disease surveillance and productivity monitoring; these wild populations are still managed but at a less intensive level than in previous years.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, work continued through 2020 and 2021 and yielded yet another successful breeding season, with 290 chicks recorded by the monitoring team.
A Chester Zoo Conservation Scholar is also supporting MWF’s efforts through her PhD at DICE, University of Kent. Becca Louch’s research will investigate echo parakeet diets using DNA metabarcoding, guiding the future planning of ecosystem reforestation projects across Mauritius, and the use of supplementary feeding as a tool to support population recovery.
We’re working in partnership with DICE University Kent, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and Mauritian National Parks and Conservation Service.