In 1974 only four of these beautiful kestrels were known to exist in the wild, which made it the world’s rarest bird. Today, thanks to Durrell, over several hundred kestrels fly free in the forests of Mauritius, and the species has been taken off the critical list. Captive breeding and intensive management of wild birds over the last 25 years have undoubtedly saved the Mauritius kestrel from extinction, making it one of Durrell’s greatest success stories. But while the kestrel is out of immediate danger, the population is still monitored, to give advance warning of any new problems.
Small islands such as Mauritius can suffer from a wide range of environmental problems. These include the introduction of exotic plants and animals to the detriment of existing wildlife, degradation and destruction of the natural habitat so that native animals cannot live there, and the indiscriminate use of pesticides that poison the land and its inhabitants. The latter was especially disastrous for the kestrel.
Durrell’s conservation efforts to help endangered Mauritian bird species began in the mid-1970's. The kestrel was the first focus of the rescue programme, then the pink pigeon and finally, since 1987, the echo parakeet. The populations of these endangered birds are still at very low levels, but have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
Other Vulnerable Animals