New reserve for treasure island parrots
Monday, September 3, 2012 at 4:44
City Parrots in Amazona barbadensis - Yellow-shouldered amazon, Conservation, Reserve, Wild bird trade

Yellow-shouldered Parrot is actually threatened by the pet trade, despite the seeming innocence of scenes like this in its native Venezuela. Photo: John John Bäckstrand ( World Land Trust has successfully raised £10,000 in just six months to protect the endangered Yellow-shouldered Parrot on a Caribbean island.

In 2009, the organisation (WLT) helped create a 732 ha nature reserve to protect threatened dry forest on Margarita Island off the north coast of Venezuela. The nature reserve was created to protect the habitat of the Yellow-shouldered Parrot, an Endangered species which has its last remaining Venezuelan stronghold on Margarita Island. The green and yellow amazon parrot has been brought perilously near to extinction due to poaching for the pet trade and habitat destruction, and already had a small population and limited range naturally. It is also found on Bonaire, but has been wiped out on Aruba and probably Curaçao, while a few small pockets of the species remain on La Blanquilla and in northern Venezuela.

The trust's local partner, Asociación Civil Provita, works tirelessly with local communities to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the species, which has now become an important symbol for the island’s culture and environment; now, every year a festival is held in its honour.

Despite the nature reserve on Margarita Island, more is needed to help protect the Yellow-shouldered Parrot. Much of the island’s human population suffers from crippling poverty and for many the price that a few parrots can fetch in the illegal pet trade is too good a reward to miss. Last year, 16 parrot chicks were stolen from their nest boxes at the research centre where wildlife rangers were guarding and monitoring captive chicks until they were strong enough to be introduced into the wild.

Rangers were not harmed in the robbery, but WLT realised that their partners needed more support to protect the parrots from the illegal pet trade and ensure the safety of their team of rangers. In March, the WLT launched the Margarita Island's Parrot Appeal and raised £10,000 in just six months, thanks to the generosity of their supporters. The funds will help support monitoring of the eggs and chicks, as well as the training of local people as wildlife rangers to increase protection, raise environmental awareness within the community, and provide alternative income and secure jobs.

This year’s Yellow-shouldered Parrot breeding season on Margarita Island is now over and saw 27 young parrots released into the reserve. Since May, seven rangers led by Pablo Antonio Millán, who is being supported through WLT’s Keeper of the Wild programme, worked tirelessly day and night to protect 14 nests. Constant police support during night shifts was very important this season, as on several occasions hunters and poachers were seen in the area.

After the last chick fledged from its nest, Millán said: “I'm very relieved that all the chicks have fledged, since it is a great responsibility for all of us rangers, with big risks but also huge satisfaction.”

Thanks to WLT supporters, sponsors Provita will now be able to strengthen their team of rangers so that they will face less risk in next year’s parrot breeding season and hopefully even greater success.

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