Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Cloud forest nature reserve: protecting Fuertes’s Parrot

6 July, 2012 - 09:39 -- World Land Trust
Fuertes's Parrot

Critically Endangered and once thought to be extinct, Fuertes’s Parrot now has greater protection thanks to World Land Trust (WLT) and our partners’ collaborative success for conservation

WLT has helped protect 363 acres of cloud forest in Central Colombia that was at risk from destruction by the gold mining industry – protecting a parrot species more precious than any rare metal.

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For over 90 years, the Fuertes’s Parrot was thought to be extinct; it was the cause of great celebration when in 2002 a team of Colombian conservationists from Fundación ProAves, a WLT partner, rediscovered a colony of 15 individuals clinging to existence in a small and highly fragmented patch of cloud forest above the town of Cajamarca in Central Colombia.

Puma

The extension of the Giles-Fuertes Nature Reserve is increasing the protection of an array of threatened wildlife, including Fuertes's Parrot and the Puma © Fundación Jocotoco

ProAves is working tirelessly to save the species and in 2009 established the 361 acre Giles-Fuertes Nature Reserve to protect one of only two tiny surviving populations of parrot, as well as many other threatened birds and mammals – from the Spectacled Bear to the Puma.

Despite the protection of the parrot’s core breeding colony, the encroachment of pasturelands into the sensitive cloud forests surrounding the reserve threatened further fragmentation and destruction of key foraging and nesting areas for this magnificent parrot.

To help tackle this problem, ProAves asked WLT to support a 363 acre expansion of the reserve. This land purchase request soon became a conservation priority as gold mining was set to move in. 

Gold mining threat

Spectacled Bear, Colombia

The reserve is also home to the Spectacled Bear, the only bear found in South America. Previously hunted for meat and sport, bear numbers have declined and they are now only found in western South America. They are still poached for their gall bladders, fat and bones for the medicinal market © ProAves

In September 2011, ProAves learnt that the South African mining giant, Anglo Gold Ashanti, believed there was gold waiting to be discovered beside the Giles-Fuertes Nature Reserve and had immediately acquired over 5,000 acres bordering the reserve.

Realising the urgent need to expand the reserve and provide a greater safe haven for threatened wildlife, WLT’s corporate supporter Nikwax nominated the Fuertes’s Parrot Project to receive funding from European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA), through an online public voting competition help between February and April. Sadly, despite a huge number of votes and great support, the Fuertes’s Parrot Project did not win the funding.

Gladly, we were still able to fund this land purchase thanks to support from our partners World Land Trust-US (WLT-US), our council member Robert Giles, and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

This has been a great collaborative success for conservation, increasing protection for this rare endemic parrot that is found nowhere else on Earth. Yet more must be done in the face of the destruction of Colombia’s threatened habitats. Recently, Anglo Gold Ashanti announced that it had found one of the world’s top 10 gold deposits: a 13 million ounce vein of gold nestled under Colombia’s central Andes.

In this endless search for gold, in some of the most beautiful places on Earth, pristine rainforest habitats are destroyed – driving wildlife to the brink of extinction.

More information

Watch a video about WLT's conservation projects with ProAves in Colombia:

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