Have a heart for Jurong Bird Park's highly-threatened bleeding-heart doves

Seen here at Jurong Bird Park's Heliconia Walk habitat, the Mindanao Bleeding-Heart Dove is one of five Bleeding-Heart Dove species endemic to the Philippines.
PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group

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The term "bleeding heart" is sometimes used to refer to someone who is excessively soft-hearted or shows excessive sympathy for another's misfortune. In Christian writing and iconography, it has been used as a symbol for the heart of Jesus Christ.

In the natural world, it manifests itself as a striking crimson splodge on the chest of a particular species of dove. Its name: The Bleeding-Heart Dove.

There are five species endemic to the Philippines, and Jurong Bird Park is the only zoo in the world to hold three of them: The Negros, the Mindanao and the Luzon Bleeding-Heart Doves.

If you're an avid traveller or nature-lover (or simply excelled at Geography), you will know that the different species are named after islands in the Philippines to indicate where they're native to.

The Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove is critically endangered - only 50 to 249 are estimated to exist in the wild.
The Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove is critically endangered - only 50 to 249 are estimated to exist in the wild. PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group
The Luzon Bleeding-Heart Dove is listed as a near-threatened species. You can see it at the Wings of Asia habitat.
The Luzon Bleeding-Heart Dove is listed as a near-threatened species. You can see it at the Wings of Asia habitat. PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group

How endangered is "endangered"?

In 1964, the International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUCN) came up with a Red List of Threatened Species as a barometer of the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species.

The IUCN Red List divides species at high risk of global extinction into nine categories (from least jialat to, well, gone from the face of the earth):

  1. Not evaluated
  2. Data deficient
  3. Least concern
  4. Near threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically endangered
  8. Extinct in the wild
  9. Extinct

Where do the Bleeding-Heart Doves figure in this list?

The Luzon Bleeding-Heart is listed as near-threatened; the Mindanao Bleeding-Heart, vulnerable; and the Negros Bleeding-Heart, critically endangered.

Due to population fragmentation, habitat loss and poaching, only between 50 to 249 Negros Bleeding-Heart Doves are estimated to exist in the wild.

The first Negros Bleeding-Heart chick hatched at Jurong Bird Park in November 2021. It is starting to show signs of adult plumage. PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group
2022 kicked off with happy news of the hatching of two more Negros Bleeding-Heart chicks - one on 11 Jan, and another on 7 Feb.
2022 kicked off with happy news of the hatching of two more Negros Bleeding-Heart chicks - one on Jan 11, and another on Feb 7. PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group

Happy-like bird

In decidedly more uplifting news, not one but three Negros Bleeding-Heart chicks have hatched at Jurong Bird Park. The first emerged on Nov 26, 2021, while the second and third chicks hatched on Jan 11 and Feb 7 this year, respectively.

This is part of a conservation breeding programme established by Jurong Bird Park, and is the first of its kind outside the Philippines.

"Negros Bleeding-Hearts are one of the rarest birds in the world and their presence in Jurong Bird Park is testimony to our commitment to continue to save the species from extinction.

"By increasing the number of conservation-dependant species in our wildlife parks and collaborating with Mandai Nature to integrate in-park conservation breeding programmes with the species' conservation action plans in their native countries, we can make tangible differences to the protection of these critically endangered species before it's too late," says Dr Luis Neves, Vice President of Animal Care at Mandai Wildlife Group.

"We hope that many more chicks will follow and for them to eventually return to their native habitat."

Due to their critically endangered status, all Negros Bleeding-Heart Doves are kept at an off-display conservation breeding area within Jurong Bird Park.

For more information and tickets to the park, click here.

This article was first published in Wonderwall.sg.