- According to the Seychellois government, the Scops owl, found only in Seychelles, has now been dropped from the World Conservation Union (IUCN) list of "critically endangered" species, conservationists said in Victoria today. The decision to remove the Scops owl came after a three-year survey on populations of the rare bird.
The bird population survey was carried out by Nature Seychelles and funded by the UN's Global Environment Facility. The environmentalist group BirdLife recently made the proposal to the IUCN to move the owl one rung down its list to "endangered" status, based on the data supplied by Nature Seychelles.
- Its reclassification says much about our increased knowledge of the species, and also about the confidence that the international scientific community now has about its prospects for survival, said Rachel Bristol of Nature Seychelles.
The survey revealed the population of Seychelles Scops Owls to be between 250-320 birds, more than was previously estimated. More about the bird's diet and nesting habits also came out of the research, which indicated that both its population and habitat were stable, according to information published by the government of Seychelles.
Another encouraging sign was said to be that 60 percent of the range in which Scops owls were found was believed to be protected within the Seychelles Morne National Park. The still rare owls therefore mostly lived in well protected areas, thus reassuring their further spread and survival.
The three-year owl census involved a team of researchers who periodically camped out in the highland forests of the island of Mahé. Given how difficult the owls are to see, the researchers used taped calls of the owls throughout the night and awaited responses.
The Seychellois owl was actually declared extinct twice, in 1909 and in 1958, but it was rediscovered in 1960 by a local naturalist. Living only above 200 meters in the montane mist forests of Mahé - an area very difficult to access - the owl has until now been scarcely studied. It was first described in the late 1800s, but the first nest with eggs was not observed until 1999.
According to BirdLife, it has been very difficult to study the habits and habitat of the owl in the 1990s, but during the last few years, researchers have been more successful. Environmentalist needed all the information they could gather about the owl in order to develop a sound management plan for the threatened species.
Ms Bristol of Nature Seychelles today expressed her satisfaction with the successful conservation efforts of the Seychelles Scops owl. "We are delighted that in the light of our research, the World Conservation Union has been able to 'downlist' the Seychelles Scops owl, and this means that it is less likely to become extinct", said Ms Bristol. "We hope that other species here can soon join it, thanks to the efforts of conservationists and local communities," she added.
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