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The purchase of the section of Colombian cloud forest could secure a future for Fuertes's Parrot. Photo: World Land Trust.
The purchase of the section of Colombian cloud forest could secure a future for Fuertes's Parrot. Photo: World Land Trust.Enlarge image

Clouds lift for rare parrot

Posted on: 07 Jul 2012

The World Land Trust has bought a large area of Colombian cloud forest in order to protect the Critically Endangered Fuertes’s Parrot.

Once thought to be extinct, Fuertes's Parrot now has greater protection thanks to World Land Trust (WLT) and its partners’ collaborative conservation. WLT has helped protect 363 acres of cloud forest in Central Colombia that was at risk from destruction by the gold mining industry, thus protecting the rare parrot species also. 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.

For over 90 years, 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 onto existence in a small and highly fragmented patch of cloud forest above the town of Cajamarca in Central Colombia. 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 like Spectacled Bear and Puma.

Despite the protection of the parrot’s core breeding sites, the encroachment of pastureland 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.  In September 2011, ProAves learnt that the South African mining giant, Anglo Gold Ashanti, believed there was gold waiting to be discovered beside the reserve and had immediately acquired over 5,000 acres at its border.

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. However, the WLT was still able to fund this land purchase thanks to support from theri US partners and the American Bird Conservancy.

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 the endless search for gold in some of the most beautiful places on Earth, it seems that pristine rainforest habitats are still being destroyed, driving wildlife to the brink of extinction.

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