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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 15:54 GMT
Zoo searches for Valentine love bird
Bleeding heart dove
The dove has distinctive red feathers on its breast
Staff at Edinburgh Zoo have launched an appeal to find a Valentine's Day companion for a rare lonesome dove.

Lucy - a bleeding heart dove - has been without a feathered friend since her mate died last November.

Now keepers are set to swoop on continental zoos after their UK counterparts failed to find her a partner.

Edinburgh Zoo had been breeding the birds as part of a conservation programme until Lucy's mate died.


Everyone is hoping that Valentine's Day will bring her just the mate she is looking for

Amanda Alabaster, zoo spokeswoman
Now the Luzen bleeding heart bird is only one of 35 held in captivity in the UK.

The species, which gets its name from the stunning splash of red feathers on its white breast, is found in the tropical rainforests of the Philippines.

Zoo spokeswoman Amanda Alabaster said the birds are being threatened in their native habitats by forest clearance and by those who hunt the species for its feathers.

She said: "It has these amazing markings with a white chest and a splash of red feathers on the chest which make it look like it has been shot through the heart.

"Lucy is very pretty but unfortunately she has been on her own for three months. We may now have to look to Europe."

'Match-making' service

She added: "There is a special system within the zoo community whereby companions can usually be found among recognised breeders for birds like the bleeding-heart dove - it's a match-making service that works very well.

"Everyone is hoping that Valentine's Day will bring her just the mate she is looking for."

The zoo was criticised in December after it destroyed four rare Arabian antelopes by lethal injection.

The four oryx were put down after the zoo said it had failed to find homes for them.

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