Toledo Zoo working to bring back fruit dove population

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - They're known for eating fruit. But they play an important role in their natural habitat, and it's because of what they don't eat.

Chuck Cerbini, Curator of Birds with the Toledo Zoo, explains, "When they eat fruit, they don't actually destroy the seeds. So they disburse the seeds and they help their ecosystems grow, like farmers of the forest."

Fruit doves are naturally found in southeast Asia and the islands of Oceania.

But they're facing extinction, thanks to habitat loss.

Zoos are trying to help the recovering population - but that's been a challenging task.

"They're very difficult birds to study. They're very shy. In their habitat, they're very difficult to find. Biologists don't really know what the population is, but we know enough to know that the population is declining."

But, Cerbini says that the Toledo Zoo is making headway in the effort.

"The hatch rate was about two and a half hatches per year, historically. When the birds moved to Toledo, that increased to over 5 hatches a year."

And it's all thanks to techniques the Toledo Zoo has developed to hand-rear them when they hatch.

"The real goal is to establish a really healthy, genetically diverse population at multiple AZA institutions. Here at Toledo, we'll continue to develop protocols, management policies, anything that helps with the management of this species."

There are other zoos also helping the fruit dove population. The rest of them, though, in Europe and Asia.

"Right now, the Toledo Zoo is the only zoo that has this species."