Project Hapalopsittaca: conservation of threatened parrots and their habitats in the Colombian Andes

Jorge Velasquez

Parrots are one of the most threatened bird families in the world, suffering from habitat loss, exploited for trade and heavily persecuted, yet one of the most publicly charismatic groups of living organisms. The serious extinction risk for Colombian parrots, together with their huge popular appeal, makes them excellent flagships to support environmental awareness and conservation action. With BP support in April 2002, the Colombian student team 'Project Hapalopsittaca' commenced an intensive search and conservation mission across the Andes for several of Colombia’s most critically threatened species. The project produced exceptional results, including the rediscovery of the azure-winged parrot (Hapalopsittaca fuertesi). Likewise, the first ever nests were discovered for both fuertesi and rusty-faced parrot (H. amazonina), individuals were ringed and intensively studied, along with eight other threatened bird species. This project expands from Hapalopsittaca a. amazonina, H. a. velezi, H. fuertesi, to also embrace Leptosittaca branickii, Ognorhynchus icterotis, Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons and Pyrrhura calliptera, owing to their precarious situation that requires urgent conservation action. The dynamic student task force, together with environmental organizations and local people, will expand and intensify efforts to undertake an ambitious 3-year conservation action plan, focussing on the following: 1.) campaigning for local, regional and national environmental education and awareness; 2.) monitoring threatened species populations; 3.) direct and sustained site-level conservation action; 4.) local and regional capacity building and encouragement of sustainable development; and 5.) wide project cooperation and dissemination of activities and results. This project will successfully recover the populations of all seven threatened parrots and protect their habitat and many other threatened species—creating a real and long-term impact towards conserving one of the most important concentrations of threatened biodiversity on the planet.

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