Rebecca Louch

Conservation Scholar

  • Qualifications MSc
  • Focus area
  • Location
    Madagascar and the Mascarenes
  • Additional Information PhD, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent
    How does supplementary feeding affect demography and reproductive fitness in endangered bird species in Mauritius?


Last year, as part of my MSc in Endangered Species Recovery at Nottingham Trent University I joined the Conservation Genetics lab at the University of Kent and am excited to be back! During that project, I learned about the Mauritius parakeet and the long-term, ongoing management by Mauritian Wildlife Foundation that led to the species recovering from <20 individuals to over 750 today. I found this incredibly inspirational and was motivated by all of the hard-working, passionate people involved. With Chester Zoo as CASE-partner, this NERC ARIES DTP-funded PhD project aims to understand the effects of supplementary feeding on Mauritius parakeet and Pink Pigeon populations, using exciting and cutting-edge non-invasive techniques. Stable Isotope Analyses will be used to quantify individual-level consumption of supplementary food, with opportunity to explore how this relates to factors such as age, productivity, and distribution. DNA metabarcoding of faecal samples will identify key native food plant species, which could be used to inform future habitat restoration in Mauritius.

Supplementary feeding of wild populations is a conservation tool used widely in species recovery projects. However, there can often be unintended negative consequences, such as disease transmission and behavioural adaptations. Understanding these consequences for the Mauritius parakeet and Pink pigeon in detail will enable conservation managers to make informed, evidence-based decisions for future management of these species. Having Chester Zoo as a CASE partner also means there is real potential for my research to have a wide impact – not just in Mauritius but on other species conservation programmes too. It is also very exciting to have conservation organisations like Durrell, ZSL, DICE, and the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation involved in the project – this will help to ensure the research is closely linked with conservation management.

Partners and Collaborators