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Conservation genomics informs the management of three threatened bird species of Mauritius


Threatened bird species of Mauritius: pink pigeon (top), echo parakeet (middle) and the Mauritius kestrel (bottom).

Royal Society International Collaboration Award for the project titled “Next generation genomics for the conservation of three iconic bird species of Mauritius” has been awarded to Prof. Cock van Oosterhout (UEA) and Vincent Florens (University of Mauritius). The award cements collaboration between the University of East Anglia (UEA), the University of Mauritius (UoM), and the Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (MWF). The 3-year project will start on 1 December 2020 and is in collaboration with Professor Jim Groombridge (University of Kent), Drs. Matt Clark and Ken Norris (NHM London), Dr. Simon Tollington (Chester Zoo), Dr. Harriet Whiteford (Jersey Zoo), Dr. Hernan Morales (University of Copenhagen), Carl Jones (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust), Diana Bell (UEA), and Dr. Vikash Tatayah (MWF).

Mauritius is home to a rich biodiversity of animals and plants that includes some of the world’s rarest species. Sadly, over 100 species have gone extinct since human colonisation of the island in 1507, and most famously among these is the dodo. Recently, however, several species of Mauritius have been saved from extinction. Coordinated conservation activities began in the 1980s with the establishment of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), led by the naturalist Gerald Durrell. Critically endangered species such as the Mauritius kestrel and the pink pigeon have been brought back from the brink of extinction. In the past 20 years, the MWF has expanded its activities into ecotourism and an Environmental Education programme, thereby contributing to the country’s economy, and establishing itself as a world leader in the restoration and conservation of biodiversity. This International Collaboration Award of the Royal Society will contribute to these efforts by conducting an innovative genomics approach to conservation (van Oosterhout 2020), thereby transferring knowledge and ensuring the long-term viability of three iconic Mauritius bird species.


Pink pigeon photo courtesy of Danny Thisbe

Kestrel and echo parakeet photos courtesy of Jacques de Speville