Target: National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Steve Boyes
Goal: Applaud work to reinstate the Cape parrot population by re-foresting yellowwood trees in South Africa
The Cape parrot, a beautiful green and gold bird and the only endemic parrot to South Africa, is also one of the world’s most endangered species of parrot. Beginning with massive deforestation by European settlers and intensifying in the 1970s and 80s with the removal of nesting sites and food sources, the Cape parrot has faced severe population decline over the years. Its primary combined habitat and food source, the Outeniqua yellowwood tree once covered large portions of the southern and eastern coastlines of South Africa. Today, these native forests are all but wiped out, resulting in the Cape parrot being forced to turn to alternative nesting sites and food sources such as pecan trees, which can lack the necessary nutrients for survival.
Steve Boyes, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, is working hard to save these endangered parrots. Where once there were unknown thousands of these birds in the wild, Boyes estimates that as few as between 800 and 1,000 remain. With help from a grant from the National Geographic Conservation Trust, Boyes was able to track a link between two viral infections related to loss of food sources in Cape parrots, as well as an apparent decline in the prevalence of these diseases in recent years. In addition, Boyes has been working with local South African communities to plant seeds and re-grow the once-expansive yellowwood forests. For each tree planted, individuals are paid between two and five dollars and these economic benefits are spread “across the entire community” by ensuring that each household has just one planter. According to Boyes, when a community works hard to ensure the survival of newly planted trees, they receive other communal benefits such as “fencing of pastures [and] painting schools.”
Despite the fact that there is no official governmental support to stop the harvesting of yellowwood trees, Boyes has been in communication with South African President, Jacob Zuma. As a result, President Zuma set up a forum, which discussed “establishing a yellowwood harvesting quota, yellowwood protected areas, and a national heritage tree list.” Boyes hopes to see “as many as 30,000” protected, untouched yellowwood trees in South Africa, and, with this, the reestablishment of a once-again flourishing Cape parrot population.
Thank Boyes for his work to not only reinstate South Africa’s yellowwood forests, and therefore the endangered Cape parrots’ population, but by aiming to do so in a way that brings many benefits to local communities.
Dear Steve Boyes,
As one of South Africa’s most beautiful parrots, as well as its only endemic parrot species, the Cape parrot is intrinsically valuable. Sadly, this species has been severely threatened in past centuries due to the destruction of its habitat and primary food source: the once-expansive yellowwood forests along South Africa’s southern and eastern coastlines. Because of the near-complete decimation of these forests, the Cape parrot has been forced to turn to alternative nesting sites and food sources, leading to starvation and malnutrition as well as viral infection.
By working to re-forest the yellowwood trees, you have not only helped to ensure a greater chance of survival for Cape parrots, but have also helped to enrich local communities through regional cooperation in the tree planting project. In this way, you have worked to positively affect both the Cape parrot species as well as entire communities of people who will benefit from the re-establishment of yellowwood forests.
Thank you for your efforts to preserve this valuable species of bird.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Sandy Cole via Wikimedia Commons