The Columbidae are a large avian family consisting of some 310 species of pigeon and dove. The Tooth-billed Pigeon is the only living member of the genus Didunculus. DNA analysis shows that it is closely related to the iconic extinct Dodo.
The population was estimated at 600–1,700 adults in 2000. However, the lack of recent records suggests that the total population may now be far lower than this, possibly fewer than 250 mature individuals.
Declining. The total population was estimated at 4,800-7,200 birds in the mid-1980s but has declined drastically since.
The Tooth-billed Pigeon is the national symbol for Samoa, where it is known as Manumea, and a flagship species for conservation. In 2007, it was the mascot for the Pacific Games, featuring on materials to raise awareness about forest conservation. Hunting of the pigeon is prohibited, but protection is not reinforced. The species does occur in some protected areas, the integrity of which has been affected by cyclones. The Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment have developed a recovery plan for the pigeon. Surveys of the remote regions of Savai'i are planned for the future.
Funds are needed to carry out the actions in the species recovery plan. The hunting of native pigeons in Samoa should be prohibited to ensure Tooth-billed Pigeons are not killed accidentally. Extensive searches of suitable habitat are needed to gain an accurate assessment of range and numbers. Research into the ecological needs and threats facing the species is also needed. Essential breeding and feeding sites need to be located, protected and monitored and sanctuaries may need to be created on offshore islands. Further efforts should be made to raise awareness of the species’ precarious conservation status amongst local people and engage them in conservation activities. It is also recommended that the feasibility of a creating a captive population be assessed as a source to bolster wild numbers.
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