Dead as a dodo? Scientists spot rare Samoan species

January 24, 2014 by Sarah Rakowski
Conservationists are excited over the first sighting of Samoa's Manumea or little dodo in almost a decade. Credit: Moe Ulli

A team of government researchers in Samoa has announced that it has finally sighted a juvenile Manumea bird (also known as the tooth-billed pigeon or little dodo) during an intensive field search in the forests of Savai'i, Samoa's northern island.

The Manumea is endemic to Samoa and is the country's national bird. The species is currently listed as Endangered due to its small, fragmented range and population. It is thought to have declined rapidly over the last 20 years as a result of hunting and habitat loss, with numbers falling from an estimated 4,800 individuals in 1991 to no more than 200 in 2012.

According to Conservation Leadership Programme partner Birdlife International, "The lack of recent records suggests that all subpopulations may now be so small that the species may warrant uplisting to Critically Endangered in the near future."

Making informed decisions

The research, which is being supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP), forms part of the recovery plan for the Manumea, to ensure the species does not follow the fate of its infamous relative, the dodo, which was hunted to extinction by the mid-1600s.

As part of this recovery plan a scientific committee has been established, consisting of staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, representatives from local non-government organisations and other ornithology experts from overseas.

Endemic to Samoa the Manumea is the country’s national bird. Credit: Moe Ulli

"In order to conserve this species it is essential that the biology and ecology of the bird is known, so that informed decisions can be made," said Moeumu Uili, who is leading the team of researchers.

"Our surveys are gathering critical evidence about the existing population, current distribution, breeding season and food sources. This information will contribute greatly to effective conservation decision making, long-term and habitat protection, and successful awareness education for the local communities."

The next step for researchers is to survey Samoa's southern island, Upolu, where some anecdotal reports have been collected. More fieldwork is needed to get the full picture, they say.

Meanwhile, the Ministry is planning a consultation process with villages where this bird has been found, to consider conservation measures for the Manumea's survival. Immediate action is very crucial at this stage especially the sites identified. Support, understanding and commitment by all our stakeholders is vital for the endurance of Manumea in Samoa.

Explore further: Finland's nature conservation areas unable to sustain forest bird species in future

Related Stories

Myanmar critical for hoolock gibbon conservation

December 18, 2013

A comprehensive conservation status review of hoolock gibbons in Myanmar has been published by Fauna & Fauna International (FFI), People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) and Biodiversity and Nature Conservation ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

A huge chunk of a tardigrade's genome comes from foreign DNA

November 23, 2015

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have sequenced the genome of the nearly indestructible tardigrade, the only animal known to survive the extreme environment of outer space, and found something ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.