For the first time in 40 years a set of Amazona guildingii parrots will be return to its native country.
Two male Amazona parrots that were born in Germany from parents that were delivered from St. Vincent under an agreement between the government of SVG and The Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP) will be flown home at the end of March.
Senior Forestry Supervisor, Cornelius Richards said that the 7 years relationship between the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrot (ACTP) has evolved to the stage where the reciprocal transfer of birds can commence from Germany to St. Vincent.
Amazona guildingii is endemic to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is the flagship species of the country, having been declared as the National Bird in 1979. The colors of the bird are depicted on the national flag, strengthening its image as a true icon of Vincentian identity.
The species are said to inhabit the interior Montane Forests and Rainforest areas of the 133 square mile mainland of St. Vincent. The main population is located within a 10,400-acre sanctuary, established by the government in the central core of the island. According to a population census conducted in 2010, the current wild population is estimated to be around 850-900 birds. Despite an increase in the number of birds, from approximately 400 in the early 1980s, the current population still remains a long way from 3000-plus birds that inhabited the forest during the 1960s and 1970s.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines government along with forestry officials realized the need for the conservation of the endangered birds because of the deforestation of prime parrot habitat in the National Parrot Sanctuary for the cultivation of Marijuana, Cannabis sativa and destruction of parrot habitat in the Upper Perseverance Valley. The negative effect that hurricane Tomas had in 2010 on the parrot population and its habitat as well as the trough system of 2011 demonstrated the need for additional options to safeguard the parrots from extinction.
Despite a number of failed attempts to have an effective parrot conservation program and assisting entity, the plight of the species did not go entirely unnoticed and so in 2006 ACTP an NGO out of Germany, presented a proposal to the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to enter into a technical partnership to conserve the national bird, both within and outside of its natural habitat. Over the next 5 years the relationship between both agencies evolved gradually, giving time for a solid partnership to develop. ACTP fulfilled all expectations of the Government regarding a workable strategy for the nation’s flagship species and the conservation of the species was entrusted to them in 2011. This was marked by the historic signing of an agreement for technical cooperation on October 7,
On December 16, 2011 ACTP received 15 St. Vincent Amazons from the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The birds were transported to Berlin, Germany via the Dominican Republic. This marked the first phase of the movement of birds under the Breeding Loan Agreement (BLA). It was also agreed that a second phase will allow for the reciprocal transfer of a number of birds from ACTP to the St. Vincent Government.
While in Germany, the birds are professionally managed by the staff of ACTP as well as co-opted services of a veterinary team from reputable institutions. The bird has to go through a quarantine process to check for any diseases before being housed at the ACTP facility. The entire operation meets requirement to the
Bundesamt für Naturschutz (Federal Agency for Nature), the agency representing the interest of CITES in Germany. In the case of the St. Vincent, management is carried out by the trained staff of the Forestry Services with the support of the Veterinary Officers of the Animal Heath and Production Division.
“The 7 years relationship between the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrot (ACTP) has evolved to the stage where the reciprocal transfer of birds can commence from Germany to St. Vincent. This will be the first time in over 40 years that any St. Vincent Amazon Parrots will be returned to its native country,” According Richards .
He said that the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines acknowledges that the current conservation focus to reciprocate the St. Vincent Amazon is necessary, practical and timely and that it is being undertaken with the understanding that these birds will serve to enrich the local gene pool thus ensuring viability of the local stock on the island. He said that the birds that would be arriving will eventually be integrated into the local stock, forming two viable pairs. “More birds are to follow as the breeding in both countries advance, further enriching the local breeding program,” revealed Richards.
He said that with the birds comes a new agreement for further technical cooperation with ACTP. The agreement will address, among other things:
1. Continue improving habitat and wild species conservation for the St. Vincent Parrot Amazona guildingii by the demarcating the St. Vincent Parrot Sanctuary, rehabilitating protected habitat and strengthening the in-situ parrot management program generally,
2. Continue enhancing the capacity of the FS-GOSVG, specifically the Wildlife Protection and Law Compliance and Enforcement programs to develop and implement In-situ and Ex-situ species research and monitoring programs including a population census for the Amazona guildingii,
3. Improve on the existing ex-situ captive stock for the St. Vincent Parrot at the Nicholls Wildlife Complex in the Botanical Gardens, ensuring its viability by upgrading existing breeding facility and further advancing towards a genetically sound breeding program for the species to parallel that of the breeding program in Germany.
4. Improve co-management of the existing ex-situ captive stock in Germany through the effective collaborative management of the breeding loan program established in 2011.
Richards said that with these new areas of focus, the future of the endemic St. Vincent Parrot is secured. “The government is committed to strengthen the technical partnership with ACTP” said the Senior Forestry Supervisor.
The Forestry Services received several areas of assistance under the agreement with ACTP, among these are:
• Rehabilitation work in the National Parrot Sanctuary (above critical water catchment areas) which were impacted by Hurricane Tomas and the extreme trough system of April 2011.
• Three 4-wheel drive vehicles to support the Forestry services’ Wildlife Management, Law Compliance and Forest and Wildlife Education through a school T-Shirt parrot conservation campaign – New Grounds Primary School and vehicles to support Wildlife Mgmt. Law Compliance and Enforcement and Forestry Education Programs Enforcement and Forestry Education Program.
• Training for 3 officers at the Associate Degree Level in Forest management at the University of Trinidad and Tobago.
• Supported Forest and Wildlife Education through a school T-Shirt parrot conservation campaign.
• Supported sustainable livelihood project as an alternative to deforestation.
• Supported GRULAC hosting in a regional convention for birds where crop predation in parrots (an emerging issue for concern at a national level) was the major focus.