conservation corner


For the past six years, parrot lovers in North American have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear some of the leading researchers in wild parrot conservation at the yearly symposium sponsored by Parrots International. This year was no exception. The two-and-a-half-day symposium was held at the elegant U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego, Calif., on May 14 and 15. A "meet and greet" was held the evening of Thursday May 13. An optional VIP San Diego Zoo Day took place on Sunday, with behind the scenes tours of the panda exhibit, the new Natural Encounters bird show, and the Elephant Odyssey Exhibit, as well as a catered meal and presentation on the California Condor Reintroduction Project. As usual, the food was fabulous. Your author gained several pounds the first several weeks in May attending first the "Refining Skills" training workshop at the Natural Encounters Ranch in Florida and then the Parrots International Symposium. Oh, well: a broader perch for my pet parrots!

Ten speakers on Friday and 10 speakers on Saturday filled our time from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. All were excellent, but space requires I touch on only a few of them. Paul Salaman, director of conservation for the World Land Trust in Washington, D.C., spoke on "Ten Years of Saving Parrots in Colombia." In 1998 he assisted in the formation in Colombia of Fundaci6n ProAves (, which, working with local communities and landowners and international organizations, has become one of the most effective conservation NGOs in South America. Their first on-the-ground effort, saving the Yellow-eared Parrot, was recently recognized and publicized as a greatly successful multi-year, multi-stakeholder program that allowed this critically endangered species to recently be downlisted to "merely" endangered. With help from 47 different organizations (including AFA Specialty Organizations Loro Parque Fundaci6n and the International Conure Society), the Yellow-eared Parrot went from 81 individuals in 1998 to more than 1,000 individuals in 2010. Paul described some of the newer projects of ProAves to conserve other Colombian avian species, including the Fuertes' Parrot, Santa Marta Conure, Painted Conure, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Rusty-faced Parrot, and Military Macaw.

Mike Perrin, director of the Research Centre for African Parrot Conservation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, presented two talks: "Ecology and Conservation of the Endangered Cape Parrot" and "The Diversity of Parrots of Africa, Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands." Mike is a founder of the Cape Parrot Working Group, begun in 2001 when the critical situation for the Cape Parrot, Poicephalus robustus, was recognized. While two other Poicephalus species are also found in Africa, P. robustus has a particularly limited distribution in small areas in South Africa. It is Africa's rarest parrot. Threats include the usual suspects of habitat degradation and fragmentation, poor breeding success due to food and nest site shortages, and poaching, but also-unfortunatelyBeak and Feather Disease (PBFD). Hundreds of volunteers do an annual count in South Africa each May, called the "Cape Parrot Big Birding Day." Although the population is difficult to count because of habitat fragmentation and because they fly long distances for food, recent counts seems to indicate the population has increased from about 500 individuals in May 2000 to more than 1,000 today. They seem to be doing a little bit better than holding their own, but the presence of PBFD in the wild population is very worrisome. Several facilities in South Africa are doing captive breeding and aviculture may be an important factor in preserving the species (for example, see and For more information, look into the programs at the University of KwaZulu-Natal ( html) and the Cape Parrot Project at the University of Cape Town ( _Parrot_ Project.html, now also on Facebook).