Bleeding-heart Pigeons Conservation Programme
Bleeding-heart pigeons (Gallicolumba spp.) are generally shy and uncommon ground-feeders inhabiting primary and secondary forest, usually at lower altitudes. Although now widely maintained and bred in captivity, their behavior and ecology in the wild is still poorly known. Most of the few available reports refer to solitary individuals or pairs usually seen foraging on the ground, where they feed on seeds, fruits, insects and other small animals, and where they can move surprisingly quickly (Dupont and Rabor 1973; Dutson et al. 1992).
The genus Gallicolumba is not confined to the Philippines, though bleeding-hearts constitute a distinct subgroup of five species and at least six subspecies restricted to the Philippine biogeographic region, i.e. the major part of the archipelago lying east of Wallace’s line (Dickinson et al. 1991). Within this region, they are classically distributed, with separate species in each of the five major faunal regions, namely the: Luzon bleeding-heart (G. luzonica), Mindoro bleeding-heart (G. platenae), ‘Negros’ bleeding-heart (G. keayi), ‘Sulu’ bleeding-heart (G. menagei) and Mindanao bleeding-heart (G. criniger). Of these, the three species with the smallest ranges (i.e. platenae, keayi and menagei) are monotypic, whereas the two species from Greater Luzon (G. luzonica) and Greater Mindanao (G. criniger) have each diverged as three distinct races or subspecies (Table 1). All five species of bleeding-hearts are now listed as (near)threatened, three critically so (IUCN 2014).
Table 1: Bleeding-heart Pigeons of the Philippines
|Luzon bleeding-heart(Gallicolumba luzonica)||NT||Uncommon inhabitant of primary and secondary forests. However, the status category ‘Near threatened’ applies only to the north Luzon race (griseolateralis), since the nominate race from south Luzon (luzonica) and the Catanduanes race (rubiventris) should almost certainly be regarded as ‘Vulnerable’.|
|Mindoro bleeding-heart(Gallicolumba platenae)||CR||Confined to lowland forest on mainland Mindoro, where now extremely scarce and declining. Most confirmed records are from Siburan, the largest remaining tract of lowland forest (Dutson et al., 1992), though Diesmos and Pedragosa (1995) and Gonzalez et al. (1998, 2000) cite recent reports from remnant forest patches elsewhere. The gross extent (c. 92%) of deforestation and continued hunting pressure are the main cause of the species’ decline (Collar et al., 1994; Dutson et al., 1992; Evans et al., 1993).|
|Negros bleeding-heart(Gallicolumba keayi)||CR||Until recently, known only from Negros Island, where historically uncommon (e.g .no sightings reported from 1927-1991) and where forest cover reduced to 4% by 1988 (Dickinson et al. 1991). Now reduced to a very few remaining patches of lower altitude primary and secondary forest (Evans et al. 1993), where unlikely to survive if hunting pressure continues (Heubuschl and Fox, 1996). First reports of the species occurrence on Panay, cited by Diesmos and Pedregosa (1995), were confirmed in late 1997 by Klop (1998) in the Pandan Peninsula; thereby providing some hope for the species survival elsewhere.|
|Mindanao bleeding-heart(Gallicolumba criniger)||VU||The nominate race from Mindanao and Dinagat, and Eastern Visayas race (leytensis) from Samar, Leyte and Bohol, are rare and declining throughout most of their ranges; whereas the Basilan race (bartletti) is almost certainly critically endangered, owing to the widespread deforestation of this island.|
|Sulu bleeding-heart(Gallicolumba menagei)||CR||Restricted to Tawi-tawi and neighbouring islets in Tandubas Group (incl. Baliungan, Tandubatu and Dundangan; Diesmos and Pedragosa 1995), but not recorded during recent surveys by Desmond Allen (in litt. and pers. comm.) in east Tawi-Tawi.|
1 Modified after Collar et al. (1994, 1999) and IUCN (2014)
A wide-ranging, though preliminary, status survey of the most threatened species was carried out in late 1994/early 1995 (Diesmos and Pedregosa 1995), with funding assistance from Vogelpark Avifauna and Birds International Inc. Data collected during this survey included the first reports of the occurrence of G. keayi on Panay, later confirmed by the first photographs of wild birds in Pandan Forest, Antique Province (Klop 1998) and the capture of at least one specimen in the same area; the latter specimen being maintained in captivity at Sibaliw research station, Buruanga, Aklan (Curio 2001). Slade (2005) discovered a nest in the same area and observed two chicks fledge.
Despite this and similar, contemporary accounts of the survival of several hitherto unreported populations of both G. platenae and G. menagei, the findings of this and various follow-up surveys in the Polillo Is. (Gonzalez 1997), Mindoro (Gonzalez et al. 2000.), Panay (Curio 2001) Negros (Tiempo et al. 2002; Paguntalan et al. 2001), Cebu (Gonzalez et al. 1999) and Tawi-tawi in the Sulu Is (D. Allen, pers. comm.), strongly support growing concerns about the decline of most species and the current IUCN/BLI ‘endangered’ and ‘critically endangered’ status categorisations accorded to 4 of the 5 species (Table 1). The ‘near-threatened’ status of the fifth species (G. luzonica) is probably also warranted, though the findings of a recent survey throughout the more denuded parts of its range in south Luzon, Catanduanes and Marinduque, suggest that small populations survive wherever sufficient forest cover remains – often despite persistent hunting pressure (Dumayas et al 2001).
Ensuing discussions with relevant local and international parties, including EEP and the AZA Pigeon and Dove Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs), intended to assist implementation of conservation action recommendations for some of the most threatened taxa, led to the development of the Bleeding-Heart Pigeon Conservation Programme. Available data on their distribution and status and an outline of likely future research, education and practical management priorities, were compiled into a project proposal (Oliver 1996) for submission to the DENR-PAWB as a basis for a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between DENR and the Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society (BCWEZS). Following various revisions, the terms and conditions of the new MOA were agreed by both Parties and signed by DENR Secretary in June 1999.
A number of local and international institutions have and continue to be involved in the implementation of this Programme. Apart from the DENR and BCWEZS, these include the: Museum of Natural History, Animal Biology Laboratory and the Institute of Biological Science, University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB; the Institute of Biological Sciences at Diliman (UPD) in Quezon City; WVSU/CAF Mari-it Conservation Park (Lambunao); Ruhr-University Bochum (Germany), Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, Inc. (NFEFI, Bacolod City); the Centre for Studies in Tropical Conservation (CenTrop) of Silliman University (Dumaguete City) and the Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (CBCF, Cebu City).
An ‘Only in the Philippines…’ poster featuring the three most threatened bleeding-hearts was produced in late 1997 with funding assistance from Bristol Zoo Gardens. A total of 3,500 copies in four languages (English, Tagalog, Cebuano and Ilonggo) of this poster were distributed. Other, related education materials have been produced and distributed by the NFEFI and researchers from UPLB; the latter having also incorporated all relevant information into databases set-up for Mindoro and the Southern Luzon faunal regions (L. Afuang, pers. comm.). Copies of a husbandry manual on these birds (Hibbert 2000) have also been distributed to local breeders, along with other captive management information and equipment donated by the BCWEZS under the auspices of the EEP Pigeon and Dove TAG.
Four aviaries intended for development of a properly structured conservation breeding programme for G. keayi were constructed at the NFEFI Biodiversity Conservation Center in 1998, where highly successful breeding trials with G. luzonica have been underway in preparation for the desired future management of the Negros species. The aviaries were funded by BCWEZS, Memphis Zoological Society, German Avicultural Society, Adelaide Zoo and proceeds from the sales of posters, T-shirts and husbandry manuals organised by Charles Hibbert of the Australian Avicultural Federation.
In 2007, the first successful captive breeding of the Negros Bleeding-heart was done in Centrop, and later also in NFEFI, where G. luzonica was already breeding actively (Lastica 2012). As of 2013, there are 18 Negros Bleeding-heart pigeons at NFEFI-BCC, of which 14 have been captive-bred (Justo 2013).
Future priorities of the Bleeding-Heart Pigeon Conservation Programme include:
- Initiate or assist development of on-going habitat protection efforts in most critical areas for G. keayi (especially Northern Negros and Ban-ban Forest Reserves, Cuernos de Negros, Panay Mountains and Pandan Peninsula); develop and sustain public awareness activities in these areas; and establish properly structured conservation breeding and research programme;
- Extend current surveys, field research, database and education activities in Mindoro, with a view to the development and implementation of priority recommendations for the enhanced future protection of G. platenae, as part of the (proposed) biodiversity conservation programme for this region;
- Complete wide-ranging and selected (priority) site surveys in Southern Luzon (including Burias, Marinduque and Catanduanes), with a view to the development of management recommendations for the enhanced future protection of G. l. luzonica and G. l. rubiventris;
- Conduct similar surveys in other, most critical areas omitted or inadequately investigated during the 1994/95 survey (owing to shortage of funds and/or local security conditions), particularly in Basilan (G. c. bartletti), Jolo and Tawi Tawi (G. menagei);
- Investigate recent reports of (hitherto unknown) populations of bleeding-heart pigeons in Cebu, with a view to the identification and enhanced future protection of these birds, which (assuming they exist) are certainly critically endangered and may represent a new taxon; and
- Produce and distribute relevant reports, management recommendations, husbandry manuals (etc.), with a view to the generation of improved awareness, technology transfer and funding support for relevant in-situ conservation activities from local and international avicultural and other interests groups (which currently focused on the least threatened taxa).
Financial Assistance for the Bleeding-Heart Pigeon Conservation Programme has been provided by: Australian Avicultural Federation (Australia), Birds International (Philippines), Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society (UK), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Philippines), German Avicultural Society (Germany), Mari-it Wildlife Conservation Park (Philippines), Memphis Zoo (USA), Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, Inc. (Philippines), Ruhr Universität Bochum (Germany), Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations (Germany).
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