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Endangered Puerto Rican parrot ceremonially released at the Iguaca Aviary. Photo by Tom MacKenzie, USFWS.

Significant achievement in the transfer of Puerto Rican parrots to the Maricao Commonwealth Forest

DNER, USFWS and USFS move 30 parrots as a first step to establish the 3rd parrot population in the wild; another milestone for the recovery of the species

Maricao, P.R. - Secretary of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), Carmen R. Guerrero Perez; the Regional Director of the Southeast Region of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Cynthia K. Dohner; and the Regional Forester of the Southeast Region of the US Forest Service (USFS), Tony Tooke, reported the transfer of 30 Puerto Rican parrots the Maricao Commonwealth Forest, a significant step to establish the third population of this endangered species.

The parrots were transferred to a new flight cage where scientists from both aviaries trained for about a year so they can be released into the forest and establish the third population of the parrot in the wild, an essential element for the recovery of the species.

The 30 individuals were successfully bred in the Dr. Jose Luis Vivaldi, DNER aviary, located in the Rio Abajo Commonwealth Forest in Utuado; and the Iguaca, USFWS aviary, located in El Yunque National Forest, east side of the island.

“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.

The Secretary said that “having the Iguaca in Maricao, allows reaching an important criterion of the recovery plan, having three interconnected populations on the island. Maricao Commonwealth Forest was selected by consensus for several years as the ideal place for this phase, mainly for its environmental characteristics and climate.”

Meanwhile, the Regional Director of the Southeast Region of the USFWS, Cynthia K. Dohner said that “The transfer of these parrots to Maricao establishing a third population marks the milestone towards our shared interagency goal of recovering the Puerto Rican parrots in the wild,“ 

“From a total of 13 birds in the early 1970s, we now have more than 500 in our aviary or in the wild.” stated Dohner.

The federal official said that “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 USFS regional forester, Tony Tooke said “the United States Department of Agriculture- Forest Service and El Yunque National Forest are proud to be part of this partnership of federal, state and private who are dedicated to the recovery of the Puerto Rican parrot. At one time, this was one of the 10 most endangered birds in the world, now the parrot will have three populations. We hope to continue our support in this partnership, providing the habitat necessary for the conservation of this species. “

For this transfer, it was necessary to build a new flight cage with a federal funding investment of $49,000; which generated seven temporary jobs. Global Maintenance & Consultants was the construction company.

During the term of a year that will take the process of training these parrots, no public tours will be accepted to the flight cage area because is necessary to avoid any human contact beyond the scientific staff to ensure that birds can adapt adequately when they are released into the forest. The public can visit the fish hatchery, as usual, during regular business hours from Monday through Friday.

Currently, the DNER’s aviary, Dr. Jose Luis Vivaldi, has a population of 212 parrots in captivity and between 88 and 94 parrots in the wild, according to July census. A total of 49 new chicks were reported this year in the aviary and 26 additional in the wild.

Meanwhile, in the USFWS’s Iguaca aviary at El Yunque National Forest’s, the population ascends to 183 parrots and 14 in the wild, according to the census of July. 20 parrots were released in two groups in June. This year a total of 24 new chicks were reported in captivity and seven in the Wild.

Between both aviaries, there is a total population of 395 parrots in captivity and an estimated of 108 in the wild between El Yunque and Rio Abajo forests.

This year 15 parrots were released on January 21 in Rio Abajo Forest and 20 parrots were released into two groups on June in el Yunque.

Historical Data of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program:

In the 19th century, the population was estimated at more than a million Puerto Rican parrots, but in the 1950s it was believed that only had 200 individuals. In 1968, the bird was included as endangered in the list of the Endangered Species Act. However, it was in 1973 when the recovery program began with the establishment of the first captive breeding program at the Iguaca aviary in El Yunque National Forest. In 1993, the second aviary, Dr. Jose Luis Vivaldi, was established for captive breeding in the Rio Abajo Commonwealth Forest.  The first release occurred in 2000 at El Yunque. In 2006, parrots were released into the wild in Rio Abajo.

Last year, the program reported the birth of two Puerto Rican parrots in the wild in a natural nest in the Rio Abajo State Forest, an event that marked a milestone in 144 years of history. 

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Carmen Milagros Díaz, DNER

Maricelis Rivera Santos

Marisel Lopez, USFWS

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