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Group Commemorates Passenger Pigeon's Extinction, Requests Protection for Another Imperiled Bird Species

Petition Filed to Protect Black-capped Petrel under the ESA

Washington, DC – WildEarth Guardians is commemorating the extinction of the passenger pigeon today by taking action to protect another imperiled bird species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). September 1 marks the 97th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the last of which, “Martha,” died on this date in 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Martha and kin did not have the protection of the ESA to prevent their extinction. While some endangered birds– such as whooping cranes, bald eagles, and California condors – have benefited from the ESA, others face grave threats with no legal protection.

“The Endangered Species Act is the most effective law for protecting and recovering imperiled species, bar none,” said Taylor Jones of WildEarth Guardians. “If passenger pigeons had been listed, we might have saved them from extinction.”

In recognition of the passenger pigeons’ tragic legacy, WildEarth Guardians is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the black-capped petrel, another severely imperiled bird species, as “threatened” or “endangered” under the ESA. Black-capped petrels nest in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and forage for squid, fish, chum, and sargassum algae in the nutrient rich upwellings of the Gulf Stream off the southeastern United States. Surveys of remaining colonies in Haiti revealed a population decline of 40 percent in 20 years. There are only 5 known nesting pairs remaining in the Dominican Republic.

“By the time people realized passenger pigeons were on the verge of extinction, it was too late to save them,” continued Jones.  “It’s not too late for black-capped petrels, but they need all the help they can get.”

Black-capped petrels face dangers from deforestation, hunting, predation from introduced mammals, inadequate regulatory protections, and other threats, including a naturally low birth-rate, mercury contamination, and climate change effects. Listing under the ESA would help protect the species from threats such as seismic exploration for off-shore energy development in crucial foraging areas in U.S. waters. Listed migratory species that spend part of the year in the U.S. also benefit from the development of recovery plans under the ESA. Listing would also support conservation efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and could help protect the birds from potential international trade.

“The passenger pigeon is gone but not forgotten,” said Jones. “Hopefully we can memorialize its passing by inspiring action for other bird species like the black-capped petrel so that they might avoid the passenger pigeon’s fate.”

Passenger Pigeon Day Graphic 2011


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