Conservation Corner


In mid-December 2007, your Conservation and Research Committee Chair had the privilege of visiting first hand the two branches of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program and observing a release of 24 captive bred Puerto Rican Parrots (Amazona vitatta) into the Rio Abajo State Forest, where they joined up with eleven other captive raised parrots that had been released the year before, in 2006. The AFA Research Grants Program has been providing modest grants to this recovery program for several years, and when the chance came to see the program in person, I jumped at the opportunity. However, having a first hand view of what our grants had contributed to was not the only objective of this trip.

Another objective for visiting this parrot breeding and release program was education for two parrot conservationists from Guatemala and El Salvador, who were to take back what they learned to Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) conservation projects in their respective countries. While the species being bred and released in Puerto Rico is an Amazon, and the species in the two Central American countries is a macaw, we still felt there was much to be learned by talking with such a lonq-lived and successful program. Gabriela Ponce from Guatemala represented the Wildlife Conservation Society-Guatemala's Scarlet Macaw Recovery Program, and Robin Bjork from El Salvador represented the non-qovernrnental conservation organization, SalvaNatura. Both organizations have recently begun working to create Scarlet Macaw recovery programs in each country that will include captive breeding and release cornponents. Guatemala still does have some Scarlet Macaws in its northern portion, the Peten, but the species was wiped out several decades ago in El Salvador, so the SalvaNatura program will attempt to actually reestablish the species in that country. AFA members will be hearing more about these two programs in the future.

 All three of us were extremely impressed with the professionalism of the members of the Recovery Program. They were very helpful in sharing what they had learned about psittacine husbandry, release protocols, and field techniques. Also irnpressive was the extent of their success in reestablishing the Puerto Rican Parrot in two locations, the El Yunque Rainforest (also known as the Caribbean National Forest) and the Rio Abajo Forest in the karst region of Puerto Rico. From a low of 13 birds in the 1970's, the Puerto Rican Parrot population has now increased to over 250 in captivity, 25 to 30 in El Yunque and 33 in the Rio Abajo Forest. Once the population in Rio Abajo is well established, additional populations will be established in other suitable locations on the island. This will help ensure the survival of the wild birds should a catastrophe wipe out one localized population and will also approach more closely the oriqinal distribution of the bird that was once found throughout Puerto Rico and on adjacent islands. The Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program involves both Federal agencies (Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and Geological Service) and the Puerto Rican Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA). We visited the DRNA breeding aviary and release site in Rio Abajo and spoke on December 11 and 12, 2007 (Tuesday and Wednesday), with Ivan Llerandi, in charge of the DRNA release effort, and Ricardo Valentin, Aviary Manager (see his pictures of life at the Rio Abajo Aviary at his picture sharing site at http:// Mr. Llerandi explained the release procedures, including how they prepare the birds for release and how they monitor them afterwards. Mr. Valentin took us on a tour of the aviary site, explaining his aviculture procedures and record keeping. Then, on Thursday, 13 December, we arrived...