San Juan, Puerto Rico – In a bid to save Puerto Rico’s endangered parrot, scientists have transported 30 of them to one of the US’s largest forests.
Scientists transported the birds, which vary from juvenile to mature adults, where they will eventually be released into the wild at Maricao Commonwealth Forest in Puerto Rico. During the next year, the birds will live in a large caged area where they will learn survival skills before being introduced into the wild.
Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), Carmen R. Guerrero Perez, said that the Maricao forest has the largest plant diversity on the island. “You can imagine how that translates into a buffet for our parrots,” she said.
The arrival of the 30 birds is due to a local and federal effort to establish a third population of the parrot that saw its number diminish to only 13 in the early 1970s. Two other populations of the parrots have already successfully been reestablished in the Rio Abajo Nature Preserve in western Puerto Rico and in el Yunque, the only rain forest in the National Forest system in the US.
“The transfer of these parrots to Maricao State Forest is a multi-year effort aimed from staff of the three agencies and other partners, which today involves a historic step in the program of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery, recognized as one of the most successful worldwide for endangered species,” said Guerrero Perez.
As of today, those two breeding centers collectively have 395 parrots, with another 108 living in nearby wild areas thanks to the expanding conservation program that has seen the release of 35 parrots so far this year.
Regional Director of the Southeast Region of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Cynthia K. Dohner, says, “Working hand-in-hand with agencies such as the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the U.S. Forest Service this is one of the best examples of success under the Endangered Species Act and a great long-term partnership. This effort is used nationally and internationally as a model to show it is possible to recover species from the brink of extinction. Next year, we hope the communities next to this amazing forest can participate during a release of these parrots.”
The Puerto Rican parrots have red foreheads and turquoise features that grow to nearly one foot in length. They are known to be private birds and generally mate for life, reproducing only once a year.
“At one time, it was among the 10 most endangered bird species in the world,” said Tony Tooke, southern regional director for the U.S. Forest Service.
At the DNER aviary, 49 new chicks were reported and 26 additional in the wild. Meanwhile, in the USFWS’s Iguaca aviary, a total of 24 new chicks were reported in captivity and seven in the wild.
Federal funding paid the $49,000 for the new flight cage. The parrots were successfully bred in the Dr. Jose Luis Vivaldi, DNER aviary located in the Rio Abajo Commonwealth Forest in Utuado as well as at the Iguaca, USFWS aviary in El Yunque National Forest. These birds are Puerto Rico’s last native parrot species.