Gurney's Pitta rediscovered in Myanmar
Gurney's Pitta (photo: Phil Round)
The discovery was made by a team of conservationists including representatives from the Bird Enthusiasts and Nature Conservation Association (BENCA) and BirdLife International. The team found pittas at four lowland forest sites, with a maximum of 10-12 pairs at one of these. All of these sites were close to locations where the birds had occurred historically, although remarkably the last confirmed record of Gurney's Pitta from Myanmar was in 1914.
Gurney's Pitta Pitta gurneyi is teetering on the brink of extinction and classified as Critically Endangered. Prior to this amazing discovery only around 30 birds were known to be left on the planet - in a small area of southern Thailand. Conservationists from two BirdLife International Partner organisations - the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds - are working closely with the Thai authorities to protect the dwindling population at Khao Nor Chuchi.
The discovery of the Gurney's Pitta in Myanmar offers fresh hope for the species' continued survival, but the road to safety looks set to remain rocky for this rare inhabitant of the jungle floor. The surviving Gurney's Pittas in Myanmar are increasingly threatened by the rapid clearance of their forest habitat to make way for oil palm plantations.
BirdLife is now set to make the first steps in the battle to save Gurney's Pitta from extinction. The priority is urgently to identify the largest remaining areas of suitable lowland forest habitat in Myanmar and work with the relevant authorities to develop an appropriate conservation strategy for them. But whilst all this is taking place in Myanmar, BirdLife will continue to work closely with the authorities to protect the small but vital population of Gurney's Pittas in southern Thailand.
However for the first time in years, the Gurney's Pitta looks set to face a much brighter future.