Celje zoo joins efforts to preserve Nicobar pigeon
The Nicobar pigeon, the closest living relative of the extinct dodo, is becoming increasingly scarce in the wild, but a Celje zoo has decided to start breeding the birds in a bid to help preserve the species.
A male Nicobar pigeon that hatched in Brno Zoo in the Czech Republic in early September has recently arrived at Celje Tropical House as the first specimen to form a future breeding flock.
The largest pigeon species in the world, the Nicobar pigeon inhabits the Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and parts of Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The bird's existence is threatened by humans, mainly through overhunting, habitat destruction, the introduction of non-native species, industry and agriculture.
A Nicobar pigeon. Photo: Celje Tropical House
Simon Cirkulan, director of Celje Tropical House, says the survival of the species, which is the only living member of the genus Caloenas, may in the future depend on a stable population in an artificial environment, which is why they decided to help the Nicobar pigeon with a breeding programme.
"The plan is to establish a breeding flock of about six individuals. Our male will soon be joined by two more specimens, which are due to arrive in the next few weeks from the Wroclaw Zoo in Poland. We are also intensively searching for three more specimens," Cirkulan told reporters recently.
They need to make sure that the birds are not closely related in order to maintain genetic diversity, which is important for a healthy population, he said.
If the Nicobar pigeon's natural environment is preserved and safe in the future, the descendants of the birds from Celje may one day return there through reintroduction projects.
A bleeding heart dove. Photo: Celje Tropical House
Apart from the latest acquisition, Celje Tropical House keeps five other species of pigeons and doves, including pied imperial pigeons and bleeding heart doves.
At the zoo the visitors can tour five different ecosystems from across the world featuring numerous species of animals and plants, including lemurs, cobras and crocodiles.