Target: The Belize Bird Rescue
Goal: Commend non-profit organization for protecting critically endangered Yellow-headed Parrots from poaching.
The Yellow-headed Parrot, endemic to a few Central American countries including Belize, has been classified as endangered since 1994. It is estimated that fewer than 1,500 members of this species remain in their native territories. In addition to habitat loss and being persecuted by farmers, the dwindling population of wild Yellow-headed Parrots has been attributed to poaching for the illicit pet trade.
Highly sought after as pets because of their beauty, high intelligence, and ability to mimic human voices, Yellow-headed Parrots are plucked as hatchlings from their native environment by poachers. Many die from stress and inadequate care. This illegal practice is not only detrimental to the immediate health of the chicks, it negatively affects the propagation of this species in the wild. In ecology, K-selected species such as parrots have low reproductive rates, produce very few young at a time, and require several years to mature. These features of parrot reproductive biology exacerbates the problem of their conservation when converged with habitat degradation and culling by farmers.
Fortunately, a dedicated non-profit called the Belize Bird Rescue is working to save Yellow-headed Parrots and other indigenous parrot species from further destruction by rehabilitating and releasing captured birds. The group strives to restock populations with breed-to-release recovery programs, and by making rescued captive birds releasable if they have the physical and behavioral capabilities to survive in the wild. Through education programs, the organization raises public awareness of the yearly raiding of Yellow-headed Parrot nests during the nesting season from April to October.
The organization works along with the governmental agency, the Belize Forest Department, to encourage enforcement and implementation of wildlife protection laws. Capturing, keeping, buying, or selling parrots in Belize is illegal, but many partaking in the wild bird trade are local villagers who poach opportunistically because they subsist on very little money. Increasing the patrolling of forests by police may work to prosecute individual poachers, but Belize Bird Rescue understands that a further reaching conservation intervention tactic involves placing power into the community’s hands by opening minds and changing attitudes in how wildlife is valued.
Belize Bird Rescue encourages local communities to consider that the existence of endangered species such as Yellow-headed Parrots in the wild can generate jobs and money, and to welcome conservation as a source of local pride. Commend this organization for bringing the issue of poaching forward and taking action to improve the lives of both parrots and people.
Dear members of the Belize Bird Rescue,
I would like to express my admiration and commend your organization for protecting the endangered Yellow-headed Parrot and other vulnerable wild birds of Belize. Your impressive rehabilitation and release programs are improving the lives of birds by giving these victims of the pet trade a second chance to fly freely and fill their ecological niche in their native habitat. The breed-to-release recovery program you have implemented for conserving Yellow-headed Parrots will not only help to replenish wild populations, it also sets an example for what can be done about the other Central American wildlife experiencing a convergence of factors that worsen their conservation status.
Bringing public awareness to the issue of poaching newly hatched Yellow-headed Parrots for the illegal pet trade will educate consumers who are in demand of wild birds as pets but do not realize the consequences of their choice to possess wildlife. In addition to encouraging implementation and enforcement of wildlife protection laws, your organization also exhibits progressive and viable approaches to conservation such as encouraging community participation in protecting its natural resources. Please continue to compassionately restore wild parrot populations and engage local people in environmental stewardship.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Carol Foil via Flickr