january 13, 2020

New GPPOL sanctuary for the Santa Cruz GroundDove

Conservation & restoration
The Santa Cruz Ground Dove (Alopecoenas sanctaecrucis)was once common in eastern Melanesia but has been heavily impacted by invasive pests such as rats, cats, and feral pigs. The last known wild population, totalling perhaps 300 birds, is confined to the wooded slopes of the tiny island of Tinakula in Temotu Province, Solomon Islands. Consequently, the species is at serious risk of extinction. 

We remain hopeful that the Santa Cruz Ground Dove can still be saved. In November 2017, 110 doves, poached from Tinakula and destined to be sold to wealthy collectors in the Middle East, were intercepted by a team of conservationists working in collaboration with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment and led by Joe Wood, a Conservation Biologist from Toledo Zoo in Ohio, the United States. While these birds were successfully rehabilitated, they could not be returned to Tinakula because of a volcanic eruption that destroyed much of the island’s forest habitat. 

Instead, the birds were housed at an improvised facility in Honiara. 60 were subsequently sent to Wildlife Reserves in Singapore. This facility serves as an ‘assurance colony’ to provide conservation programs with breeding groups to ensure the species will not become extinct. The rest remained in temporary aviaries on the outskirts of the Capital. Despite their relatively basic accommodation, there has been some breeding from this group, with nine chicks successfully raised to date. Nevertheless, there was an urgent need to build in-country capacity for the conservation of threatened endemic species. 

In 2020, NBPOL formed a partnership with Toledo Zoo to build and run a conservation breeding centre for Santa CruzGround Doves. GPPOL has donated an area of land in Tetere to construct the facility and will provide basic amenities and other in-kind support for the project. The Zoo has committed to financing the construction and upkeep of the facility and will recruit and train a team of animal keepers. 

In March 2020, construction began on the new breeding centre. Although the pandemic hampered building work, the first phase is now complete. We aim to transfer the birds to their new home by May 2021. The long-term plan is to use captive-bred birds for reintroduction, establishing additional populations when islands within the birds’ historic range have been cleared of invasive predators.