Photo: Alberto Alvarez. Rescue efforts are underway to protect the native Puerto Rican Amazon. There are many areas of the forest that are inaccessible so staff at Rio Abajo won’t be able to determine the full impact on the wild population for several more weeks
THE WORLD PARROT Trust (WPT) is appealing to readers to help provide relief funds to a Critically Endangered parrot native to Puerto Rico.
Last month, sustained winds of 155mph (249kmh) from Hurricane Maria slammed into the Caribbean island, causing major destruction to its wildlife and ecosystems. Hard hit were the aviaries at Rio Abajo, which is central to the recovery of the Puerto Rican Amazon (Amazona vittata) in the wild, and is supported by the WPT.
In preparation for the storm, 174 parrots in the captive population at Rio Abajo were relocated to a secure hurricane shelter. About 30 per cent of these birds are intended for release in the wild; the others are part of the captive breeding program or retired breeders. All the birds have since been returned to outdoor enclosures after the storm passed and are doing well.
But help is needed to rebuild what has been lost of the aviaries. Damage has been caused to 33 of the centre’s 42 breeding cages, along with 18 holding cages.
Tanya Martínez, conservation biologist on site at Rio Abajo Aviary, said: “The aviary took massive damage during the storm, which also damaged most of our water delivery system. The Rio Abajo forest can barely be called a forest any more.”
Staff working in Rio Abajo are still assessing the effects of the storm on the wild population. So far, there have been sightings of 80 wild Puerto Rican Amazon alive and well.
Ms Martínez added: “This number could increase in the future as we continue to sight more wild parrots. However, the forest is greatly defoliated and the loss of food plants could result in greater mortality in the future.”
Desi Milpacher, the WPT’s publications editor, said: “Currently the birds are living on royal palm fruits. Many of the trees were lost or stripped bare in the storms, and what food is available is disappearing rapidly. As a result, the wild birds require supplemental feedings, which the team is providing three times a day.”
The WPT’s fundraiser is live until December.
To donate, visit: www.razoo.com, and in the search bar (top right), type: ‘Puerto Rican Amazon Relief Fund’. Find out more about the WPT at: www.parrots.org
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