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New population of plateau dove was discovered in Cerrado

original text by Margaret Sessa-Hawkins / BirdLife International

In February 2019, the staff of SAVE Brasil (Representative of BirdLife in Brazil) began to hear exciting reports from members of the communities surrounding the Botumirim State Park in the state of Minas Gerais.

The community reported sighting of Columbina cyanopis (Critically Endangered), a species popularly known as a plateau, outside where the bird used to be found. The SAVE Brasil team was both excited and skeptical. One of the rarest birds in the world, the plateau roller was considered extinct for 75 years, before 14 individuals were seen in the wild in 2015. A new population, even small, would mean increased genetic diversity, and would also point to the possibility of more undiscovered individuals in nature.

On March 14, 2019, a team went looking for the birds. The birds were seen within the limits of the Botumirim State Park, about 5 kilometers from where the known population currently lives. The team searched the birds over five independent transects, playing call recordings to attract the birds.

After 45 minutes, the team search was rewarded. They spotted a pair of plateau doves while a nearby male sang. For the next three hours, the team spotted a fourth bird in the area. The sighting of the four new individuals represented a 26% increase over the previously known population.

Highland Roller. Photo: Ciro Albano / SAVE Brazil Collection

& #8220; Those working in nature conservation are generally very hardy, but it is difficult to look for rare species such as the plateau dove in a habitat that looks perfect for him and not find him there & #8221; says Marcelo Lisita, assistant After a year of looking at different locations without finding new individuals, it was with great excitement that we saw these few in a new area. ”

THE discovery of plateau dove was significant beyond its importance for the bird population. Since the discovery of the original population in 2015, SAVE Brasil has been working closely with neighboring communities to raise awareness about the bird. In early 2018, SAVE opened the reserve for visitors where birds are found. Since then, they have been working to try to ensure that communities benefit from ecotourism. Having a community member reporting a sighting shows that these outreach efforts are successful.

Despite the new population, the outlook for the plateau roller is still unclear, so SAVE is doing everything possible to increase the chance of survival of the species. In January 2018, with the support of Rainforest trust, the organization was able to buy a small plot of land where the bird was originally found, forming the Rolinha do Planalto Nature Reserve. Reserve visits are strictly controlled and need to be scheduled in advance through SAVE. On July 6 of the same year, the local government established approximately 36,000 hectares of protected land, creating Botumirim State Park, which overlaps the SAVE reserve and expands the total protected area.

Recent research on the turtledove has given us reason to be hopeful. So far, eight nests were found, although only one puppy ran away. With the discovery of the new population, the team also renewed its efforts to look for other places where the plateau can be found. Out of the four individuals reported by community members, they have had no luck, but they are not losing hope. There are still many places to visit.

THE SAVE Brasil execute the project Saving the plateau roller and its unique habitat in the Cerrado with support from Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fundand Brazilian International Institute of Education (IEB).

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund is a joint initiative of the French Development Agency, Conservation International, the European Union, Global Environmental Management, the Government of Japan and the World Bank. A key goal is to ensure that civil society is involved in biodiversity conservation.