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2006 will be a Watershed Year for the Puerto Rican Parrot: Agencies Implementing Aggressive Plan for Recovery

 

News Release in Español

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2006


Contacts:
Lilibeth Serrano, Public Affairs, 787-851-7297 ext 239



Federal and state agencies are gearing up to make 2006 a turning point for the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program. “This is a very aggressive plan, with reintroduction of parrots into the wild, construction of a new aviary, captive breeding programs in two existing aviaries and monitoring of the wild populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and the U.S. Forest Service are working closely together and are partnering with communities to make it all happen,” indicated Edwin Muñiz, Field Supervisor for the Caribbean Ecological Services of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The strikingly beautiful Puerto Rican Parrot, once a common bird in Puerto Rico, has declined dramatically throughout the 20th century. Much of its prime habitat, forested areas with mature trees suitable for nesting, has disappeared. Today there are about 200 parrots left, including captive and wild birds. A small wild population remains at El Yunque, which is marginal habitat for the bird when compared to the historic range. “We do periodic surveys of the wild population. Our recent attempts to obtain an accurate estimate of the wild population were hampered by recent weather conditions. However, all indications suggest that the wild population in El Yunque may be declining and consists of less than 30 individuals,” explained Fernando Nuñez-García, Project Leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program.

The future of the Puerto Rican Parrot depends on our ability to continue with the success of the captive breeding programs and to successfully establish other populations in the wild, and supporting the remaining wild population. “While having multiple projects running in parallel tracks is a huge undertaking, this approach is essential. We are optimistic that with the new initiatives running in 2006, we can start reversing the decline,” said Nuñez-García. “The new aviary and the establishment of an additional population represent new and exciting possibilities.”

The main elements of the Recovery Plan for the Puerto Rican Parrot as outlined by the agencies are:

Wild Population: The plan is to establish other wild populations. The Puerto Rican Parrot will be reintroduced in other locations beginning this year with a release in Rio Abajo and other places to follow. Scientists are already working to identify potential locations for a third population. For the 2006 release the agencies have 22 candidate birds in the José A. Vivaldi aviary in Rio Abajo and, they hope to supplement that group with parrots from the aviary in El Yunque. The exact number of birds to be released is still to be decided. Biologists must select birds in superior physical condition, able to forage and fend for themselves when attacked by predators. After 2008, the plan calls for alternating releases of parrots on a yearly basis between El Yunque and Río Abajo.

Captive Breeding and a New Aviary: Scientists are pleased with the results of the captive breading program at two aviaries. In captivity the birds are reproducing with great success. Of the 178 birds in captivity, 94 are paired-up and are expected to successfully reproduce. As with humans, some birds are too young or too old to reproduce, and others simply don’t reproduce. The female birds laying eggs usually produce two to four eggs and many of these eggs are infertile. Agency scientists identify fertile eggs to support and assure the birth of chicks.

“The plan relies on the aviary in El Yunque and the Jose A. Vivaldi aviary in Utuado to provide a steady source of parrots to release into the wild,” said Ricardo Valentín from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. “The aviaries play a pivotal role in the successful releases and also offer the space needed for veterinary care.” By the end of this year the Fish and Wildlife Service will relocate its aviary to a new location in El Yunque, with improved logistics that hopefully will translate into increased number of parrots available for release.

Community Partnerships and Education: Helping people to understand how to protect the Puerto Rican Parrot and its habitat in the wild is equally important to releases and the work performed at the aviaries. “We all share the responsibility of recovering this species. As such, it is extremely important that we all learn about the Puerto Rican Parrot.” said Pablo Cruz, Forest Supervisor of the Caribbean National Forest”. Specifically, the agencies are working with the communities adjacent to the Rio Abajo State Forest and more closely with the Jobos community, located in the center of the horseshoe shaped forest. Agency biologists met with the community and plan to work more closely with its leaders hoping that they become spokespersons for the Puerto Rican Parrot within their community. “Organización Para el Desarrollo Humano,” a local non-government organization and the state agency “Oficina para Comunidades Especiales” will support education of the community. Also, Plaza Las Américas is promoting a contest for artisans and a crafts fair that will help raise awareness for the Puerto Rican Parrot and its distinctive features. The public often confuses the endangered parrot with exotic birds common in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Parrot measures 12 inches from head to tail and is the only bird with an emerald green body, a red crown; white rings around the eyes and under-wings that flash blue-turquoise when in flight.

These multi-agency efforts should guarantee the continued success of the recovery of the Puerto Rican Parrot.

 


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