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Rare Philippines quail spotted - on way to cooking pot

A rare Worcester's buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri), locally known as Philippines quail, is photographed while being held by a bird hunter in Caraballo mountain, on Luzon island, in January, after it was snared in a trap. The bird was previously only known through drawings based on dead museum specimens collected decades ago. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Feb 17, 2009
A rare Philippines quail that was feared to have become extinct has been photographed alive for the first time -- as it was headed for the cooking pot, ornithologists said Tuesday.

Hunters snared the Worcester's buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri) in the Caraballo mountain range last month and a TV crew took pictures and video footage of the live bird at a poultry market, the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines said.

Club president Michael Lu said the group was "ecstatic" about the find, but they also "feel sad that the locals do not value the biodiversity around them."

He added: "What if this was the last of its species? Much more has to be done in creating conservation awareness and local consciousness about our unique threatened bird fauna."

Named after Dean Conant Worcester, an American zoologist who worked in the Philippines in the early 20th century, the bird was previously only known through drawings based on dead museum specimens collected decades ago.

"This is a very important finding," said Philippines-based Arne Jensen, a Danish ornithologist who heads the bird club's records committee.

"Once you don't see a bird species in a generation, you start to wonder if it's extinct, and for this bird species we simply do not know its status at all."

The quail's breeding area remains unknown though ornithologists suspect it resides in the high mountain grasslands of the Cordillera mountain range to the west of the Caraballos on the main island of Luzon.

The quail was being sold at a Manila wet market in Manila in 1902 and since then, just a few single specimens have been documented in Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet provinces, which form part of the two mountain ranges, the club said.

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