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Socorro Dove returns to Mexico!

Fern Davies

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Great news from Juan Martinez-Gomez and the Socorro Dove project!


The Socorro Dove (Zenaida graysoni) returns to Mexico after 40 years of its extinction in the wild.
On 5 September 2013, a ceremony took place on the premises of the Africam Safari zoo at Valsequillo (Puebla/Mexico) to celebrate the return of the Socorro Dove to Mexico. The ceremony was attended by the Coordinating Team of the Socorro Dove Project, members of the conservation community and representatives of Mexico´s ministries of the interior (SEGOB), the environment (SEMARNAT), and the Mexican Navy (SEMAR). During the ceremony, a commemorative plaque was offered to the Mexican Navy and all institutions participating in the international ex situ conservation program whose efforts made possible the repatriation of this endemic dove.
The Socorro Dove Project represents the dedication of many institutions working for a common goal. Ex situ conservation programs are coordinated by Stefan Stadler at the Frankfurt Zoo, Peter Shannon at the Albuquerque Biological Park and Frank Carlos Camacho at Africam Safari. In situ conservation is coordinated by Juan Martínez-Gómez at INECOL and Helen Horblit at the Island Endemics Foundation / Endémicos Insulares. More than 20 institutions participate in conservation breeding efforts through the European Endangered Species Program (EEP) of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and several zoos in the United States. In Mexico, the Socorro Dove Project is supported by the ministry of the interior (SEGOB), the environment (SEMARNAT), and the Mexican Navy (SEMAR).
The Socorro Dove is endemic to Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago. The last record of the species in its natural habitat dates from 1972. Introduced mammals drove it to extinction through predation and habitat destruction. Dr. Luis Baptista, founder of the Island Endemics Foundation, initiated the Socorro Dove Project in 1987-1988 after corroborating that a viable population existed in human care. After Luis´ untimely death in 2000, Juan Martínez-Gómez, a graduate student at the time, joined the foundation and crafted a collaborative program with the Mexican Navy. By 2004, a breeding station funded by the Island Endemics Foundation and the Mexican Navy was built on Socorro Island. In 2005, avian influenza outbreaks in Europe prevented a direct return of the doves to Mexico. In order to move closer to the goal of retuning doves to its home country, Socorro Doves bred by zoos participating in EAZA's EEP were sent to the Albuquerque Biological Park in 2008.
In April 2013, after careful planning with Frank Carlos Camacho, Director of Africam Safari, the ex situ conservation breeding program was successfully extended to Mexico. Restoration efforts in situ are underway with the collaboration of SEGOB, SEMAR, and SEMARNAT, César Tejeda at Endémicos Insulares, Helen Horblit at the Island Endemics Foundation, Juan Martínez-Gómez at INECOL and Patricia Escalante at UNAM´s Institute of Biology. All participants in the Socorro Dove Project are thrilled with the return of the species to Mexico and share with the conservation and ornithological communities their happiness and enthusiasm to achieve the reintroduction of the Socorro Dove to its ancestral island in the near future.
Comments and highlights
Peter Shannon (Albuquerque Biological Park) stated that:
The Albuquerque Biological Park is proud to be a partner in this effort to return Socorro doves to their country of origin.  For nearly 100 years, aviculturists from many parts of the world have worked to ensure that the dove would continue to exist in our aviaries and breeding centers.  On the occasion of doves returning to Mexico after a 40 year absence, we celebrate all those who have played a role in this significant achievement.  And we encourage those who follow us in the quest to one day see Zenaida graysoni thriving as a free-ranging species in the forests of Socorro Island. 
Stefan Stadler (Frankfurt Zoological Gardens) added:
I am extremely happy and grateful to have the honour to be part of The Socorro Dove Project and participate as a scientist from the Frankfurt Zoo on behalf of so many dedicated people in over 20 zoos and bird parks from about a dozen different European countries led by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria EAZA in this exceptional event of the return of an Extinct-in-the-wild Mexican species of bird to its country of origin. There is little that can be more rewarding for an ex situ conservationist than collaborating not only with zoo colleagues on a global level but also with the in situ community which includes scientists from many areas of research and the authorities, spearheaded by the Armada de Mexico, responsible for the administration of the various aspects of such a prestigious endeavour.
Frank Carlos Camacho (Africam Safari) declared:
I feel profoundly inspired, and at the same time with a great sense of responsibility, by having the Socorro Dove back in Mexico. This is a great opportunity to revert what seemed to be the imminent process of extinction of a Mexican species. It is thrilling to witness the collaboration of so many institutions and people of so many countries making the recovery of the Socorro Dove possible.
Helen Horblit (Island Endemics Foundation) also commented that:
The Island Endemics Foundation is gratified to see the fruition of Dr. Luis Baptista's dream to return the Socorro Dove to Mexican soil. We are proud to be part of a thirty-year global effort to save the Socorro Dove from extinction by breeding them in captivity and to preserve its former environment in the wild. It is a privilege to work with colleagues of great foresight who have dedicated so much time and effort to conserve a “little brown bird”. The Socorro Dove will continue to be the flagship species for the conservation of all the endemic species in the Revillagigedo Archipelago and we look forward to the day when the Socorro Dove is flying free on its ancestral home, Socorro Island. 
Juan Martínez-Gómez (INECOL) also shared his thoughts:
After 25 years of participating in the Socorro Dove Project, I am very happy to see how many institutions have joined the project started by Luis Baptista. At this time, when the Socorro Dove has returned to Mexico, I am thrilled to see that we are not only more, but that we are much better. I am confident that the Socorro Dove will be flying freely in its ancestral island in the near future.
For additional information please contact:
Ex situ
Conservation Breeding Program in Europe (EAZA/EEP)
Stefan Stadler, Frankfurt Zoo (stefan.stadler@stadt-frankfurt.de)
Conservation Breeding Program in the United States
Peter Shannon, Albuquerque Biological Park (pshannon@cabq.gov)
Conservation Breeding Program in Mexico
Frank Carlos Camacho, Africam Safari (fcamacho@africamsafari.com.mx)
In situ
Conservation Program on Socorro Island
Juan Martínez-Gómez (juan.martinez@inecol.edu.mx)


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Earlier this month, conservation groups and scientists celebrated the return of the Socorro dove (Zenaida graysoni) to Mexico, where it was last seen in its natural habitat in 1972. The Socorro dove is endemic to Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo […]


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