3 critically endangered Negros bleeding-heart chicks hatched in Jurong Bird Park breeding programme

The critically endangered Negros Bleeding-heart doves. PHOTOS: MANDAI WILDLIFE GROUP, NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Three chicks of the critically endangered Negros bleeding-heart dove have hatched from a conservation breeding programme in Jurong Bird Park.

It is estimated that there are only between 50 and 249 of these birds in the wild.

The breeding programme was set up in Singapore last year to help boost the population of the Philippine natives.

Six birds - three males and three females - arrived here from the Philippine island of Negros last September. The birds originated from a conservation breeding facility helmed by Talarak Foundation Inc (TFI) in Negros Forest Park, Bacolod City.

Jurong Bird Park and nature conservation group Mandai Nature partnered with TFI to set up the conservation breeding programme with the goal of the progeny birds returning to the Philippines and being released in their natural habitats to restore wild populations.

The birds were paired up in Jurong Bird Park's off-exhibit breeding facility and the park welcomed its first Negros bleeding-heart chick on Nov 26. Two more chicks have hatched since.

Singapore is the only breeding programme for the species outside its native country.

Dr Luis Neves, vice-president of Animal Care at Mandai Wildlife Group, said: "Negros bleeding-hearts are one of the rarest birds in the world and their presence in Jurong Bird Park is testimony to our commitment to continue to save species from extinction."

He added that by increasing the number of at-risk species in the wildlife parks of Singapore and collaborating with conservation breeding programmes in the species' native countries, "we can make tangible differences to the protection of these critically endangered species before it's too late".

The Negros bleeding-heart dove is listed as critically endangered by the the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species. The species is threatened by population fragmentation, habitat loss and poaching.

There are five bleeding-heart dove species endemic to the Philippines, and Jurong Bird Park is the sole zoological institution in the world to hold three of the five species - the Negros, Mindanao and Luzon bleeding-hearts, each named after the island that it is native to.

The Mindanao bleeding-heart is listed as vulnerable, while the Luzon bleeding-heart is listed as near threatened. The Negros bleeding-heart is believed to be the most endangered bleeding-heart species that remains.

All bleeding-heart species get their name from a red splash of colour on the chest.

Conservation efforts by zoos help to sustain their numbers and keep them safe from threats such as habitat loss, illegal trade and potential natural disasters that could wipe out entire populations.

Valuable information and data can also be collected while under human care, which can then be used in species recovery plans and conservation strategies.

Mr Matthew Ward, project manager at TFI, said: "Named after the Negros island, one of the last remaining forested areas in the West Visayan region, this dove is an ambassador to the conservation of all Negros wildlife.

"The species is impacted both by local poaching pressure and the loss of its lowland forest habitat, requiring a multifaceted approach to conserve the remaining populations - including habitat restoration and protection, rural education and outreach, and further monitoring of existing populations."

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