This is the extraordinary moment the hatching of a rare Mauritius pink pigeon chick was caught on video – and the moment the hard work started in earnest for Paignton Zoo bird keeper Tom Tooley.
Senior Bird Keeper Tom is currently 6,000 miles away on the island of Mauritius. But if you think he’s dodged the English winter to relax on a tropical island, think again.
He’s spending time with local conservationists to help bolster the population of this bird, classed as an Endangered Species. That means hand rearing – and THAT means long days: “The first feed is at 6.00am, then every 3 hours ‘til 6.00 in the evening, or even 9.00. In between, you’re making fresh feeds and cleaning up after the messy chicks!”
Tom’s an expert on pigeons and hand-rearing, and on previous visits has trained local staff. He’s very happy to share the experience he has gained working at Paignton Zoo: “Bringing a chick through is satisfying – it’s rewarding. It’s not easy – you need to be patient, precise and very well organised. You keep records, you weigh them every day. It’s a responsibility – you have to be prepared to put in the hours – early starts, late finishes.”
Tom has been seconded to work with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the only non-governmental organization in Mauritius exclusively concerned with the conservation and preservation of the nation's endangered plant and animal species. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.