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New Project Leader Named for Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery


November 29, 2001

Christine Eustis, 404/679-7287

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has hired Fernando Nunez-Garcia, a 14-year Service veteran, as the Project Leader for the recovery of the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot, a species endemic to Puerto Rico. Mr. Nunez-Garcia, a native of Aibonito, Puerto Rico, has been studying and working on the recovery of the species since 1981.

“I am thrilled to have Fernando leading the recovery effort,” said Sam Hamilton, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Few people have worked with the Puerto Rican Parrot longer than he has, and that expertise gives us the best chance to rescue the species from its precarious situation.”

Less than 200 Puerto Rican parrots exist in the world today. Only about 40 of them are living in the wild, all of them found within the boundaries of the Caribbean National Forest. Another 133 live in captivity in the Luquillo and Río Abajo aviaries. The species has suffered tremendous declines in population due to habitat loss and the heavy demands of the pet trade, especially during the early 1900s. In 1975, the wild population hit an all-time low, with only 13 individuals flying free in the Caribbean National Forest.

The Service’s Puerto Rican Parrot recovery efforts began in the early 1970s. In 1973, the Service established the Luquillo Aviary in the Caribbean National Forest. In 1989, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources completed the construction of the Río Abajo aviary and in 1993, after practicing parrot husbandry techniques using Hispaniolan Parrots, they received Puerto Rican Parrots from the Luquillo aviary. Nunez-Garcia will continue to coordinate parrot recovery efforts with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and the U.S. Forest Service.

Nunez-Garcia comes to the job following a 6-month detail at the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. Previously, he worked for the Service’s Federal Aid Division in the Southeast Regional Office, Atlanta, Georgia. From 1987 to 1998, he worked as a senior biologist at the Service’s Río Grande Field Office near the Caribbean National Forest, Puerto Rico. His work experience with the Puerto Rican Parrot dates back to 1981, when he worked with the Service’s recovery team while employed by the U.S. Forest Service. Before joining the Service as a full-time employee, he held various volunteer, seasonal, and temporary positions. Nunez-Garcia earned a bachelors degree in general biology in 1981 from the Cayey Campus of the University of Puerto Rico and a masters degree in general biology in 1987 from the Río Piedras Campus of the University of Puerto Rico. He has completed graduate-level work at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, as well.

As project leader, Nunez-Garcia will be responsible for guiding recovery activities, including the management of the wild population and the Lúquillo Aviary. (The Río Abajo aviary is managed by Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources.) It will also be Nunez-Garcia’s responsibility to oversee the release of captive birds into the wild. He will be based in the Service’s Río Grande field office near the Caribbean National Forest.

Nunez-Garcia is married to Wanda Rivera. He is the father of two children, Marie Anne, 17, and Fernando James, 15.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System that encompasses more than 535 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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2001 News Releases

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