Tom MacKenzie, USFWS
A group of Puerto Rican parrots are on their way to Maricao State Forest in Puerto Rico, to live in a new aviary until they are ready to be released into the wild. These parrots will eventually become the third population of parrots on the island, thanks to the efforts of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. The third group will be a huge step forward in helping the wild Puerto Rican parrot population grow. The two other populations of parrots are in the Rio Abajo Nature Preserve and in the El Yunque in Puerto Rico.
“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,” said Cynthia K. Dohner, regional director of the Southeast Region of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “From a total of 13 birds in the early 1970s, we now have more than 500 in our aviary or in the wild.?lt;/span>
The transfer to the state forest is part of a multiyear effort to establish another population. It?l take a year before the parrots are released into their new home, as they have to learn how to live in the wild first. If it? a success, this could mean good things for other parrot conservation programs around the world. “This effort is used nationally and internationally as a model to show it is possible to recover species from the brink of extinction,?Dohner 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,?said Tony Tooke, regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service. “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. “
Puerto Rican parrots numbers dwindled thanks to habitat loss, hunting and invasive species. In the 19th century, there was estimated to be around one million Puerto Rican parrots. In the 1950s, the population was down to 200 birds. 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.
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