Since the devastating volcanic eruption that almost caused the extinction of this striking species, the Montserrat oriole has been the target of much research and management. In June 1999, eight birds were taken to Jersey Zoo to enable the development of husbandry techniques. Initial attempts at captive breeding proved successful and captive birds are now also present at several other locations in the UK (2).
There are currently no plans to augment the wild population with birds from captive stock. However, there is much potential, and need, for a captive breeding programme, as this would safeguard the Montserrat oriole against the risk of extinction by providing birds for future reintroduction. Furthermore, captive birds can potentially be used to assist research into conservation management techniques. Development of artificial incubation and hand-rearing techniques, for example, would enable eggs or chicks to be harvested from wild nests and raised in a controlled environment, before being released back into the wild and increasing this species’ reproductive output (3).
There is also a comprehensive programme to monitor the population and breeding success of the Montserrat oriole. In 2001, a new research programme into the causes of the continuing decline was begun, and the results of initial management interventions were assessed in 2003 (2). In addition, a Species Action Plan was published in 2005 (3). The Montserrat oriole should also benefit from experimental rat control in the Centre Hills, which commenced in 2006, as well as a pig eradication programme which is planned for the island (2).
The Montserrat oriole is legally protected under the Wild Birds Protection Ordinance (1987), and the Forestry, Wildlife, National Parks and Protected Areas Ordinance (1996), which also makes provision for protected areas and wildlife protection. The majority of this species’ population is also afforded protection in the Centre Hills Forest Reserve, most of which is privately owned, with an agreement between the government and landowners ensuring the area is managed for the benefit of wildlife (3).