Toasting Parrots Before They Are Toast
We are celebrating the long history of One Earth Conservation by republishing our blogs from the past that appeared on www.lafeber.com/conservation/posts. This month we are pleased to take note of our past work and partners in Paraguay, where Dr. LoraKim Joyner will be visiting in early September. (originally published September 2015 at www.lafeber.com/conservation/posts)
There is a bird known as the vinaceous-breasted parrot (Amazona vinacea) of South America. The name means “color of red wine,” descriptive of the species’ lively purplish breast feathers. It is endangered, with perhaps less than 2,000 total individuals in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. The biggest threats for parrots in general are the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss, and in my experience with other species, the illegal trade is the largest factor in a parrot species' decline. In early September 2015, I journeyed with Guyra Paraguay to assist them in their population monitoring of this species, and to design a long term conservation plan that might renew the population in Paraguay, where there may only be 100 left.
Counting with Arne Lesterhuis and Marcela Zacur in Itabó Rivas
Our first stop was in the private reserve of Itabó Rivas, where we conducted two evening parrot counts and two morning counts. This reserve has a nice forest patch, kept largely intact because of the palm and yerba mate crops that need the shade of the forest canopy.
Yerba Mate crop in forest
Collared Aracari in Itabó
During the day we searched for parrot nests, finding two Pionus nests and much Vinaceous nesting territory behavior. During our stay (August 31 – September 2, 2015) we briefly surveyed the area, and we counted (maximum # of distinct individuals):
Amazona vinacea (Vinaceous-breasted amazon) 39
Brotogeris chiriri (Chevron-winged parakeet) 4
Pionus maximillani (Scaly-headed parrot) 8
Psittacara leucophthalma (White-eyed parakeet) 86
Amazona aestiva (Turquoise-fronted amazon) 2
Southern lapwings were everywhere!
From there we drove to Limoy Reserve. It is about 22 km from Itabó, but no continuous biologic corridor links the two. We conducted counts in some areas of the reserve from September 2 – September 4, 2015:
Amazona vinacea (Vinaceous-breasted amazon) 11
Brotogeris chiriri (Chevron-winged parakeet) 2
Pionus maximillani (Scaly-headed parrot) 10
Psittacara leucophthalma (White-eyed parakeet) 194
Amazona aestiva (Turquoise-fronted amazon) 0
Counting in Limoy Reserve
Based on the flight patterns and distances, we conclude that birds are not mixing daily between Limoy and Itabó, and hence we only observed 50 Vinaceous individuals. Nearby Carapá Reserve has some Vinaceous parrots as well, but we did not count them at this time. Although we did not do a complete survey of both reserves, we still can conclude that there are very few parrots indeed. It is disheartening to see such preciousness in short supply, and their habitat sorely fragmented and surrounded by intensive agricultural fields.
Burrowing owls look like they take on the pigmentation of the red dirt and cows around them
Reserves are surrounded by agricultural fields
Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi, a Sufi poet of the 13th Century, often wrote of the beauty of things colored vivaceous – like wine. His wine is a metaphor, and it is not just any wine, but the wine of pure and total love. What if we could find a way for such love to overfill our cups, so that we would have the heart, courage, and will to save our parrot species that are under such threat? I believe that it is possible to grow such love and compassion, and then to find the concrete ways to turn that affection into actions that save not just the birds, but ourselves as well.
Let’s toast to that hope, shall we? For I believe that our commitment and joy is a precious resource that we are never without. In our conservation endeavors, let us bring love to all we do, so that we can celebrate and work together for these birds that are “the envy of the sun.”
Bring wine, for I am suffering crop sickness from the vintage; God has seized me, and I am thus held fast. By love’s soul, bring me a cup of wine that is the envy of the sun, for I care aught but love. Bring that which if I were to call it “soul” would be a shame, for the reason that I am pained in the head because of the soul. Bring that whose name is not contained in this mouth, through which the fissures of my speech split asunder. Bring that which, when it is not present, I am stupid and ig- norant, but when I am with it, I am the king of the subtle and crafty ones. Bring that which, the moment it is void of my head, I become black and dark, you might say I am of the infidels. Bring that which delivers out of this “bring” and “do not bring;” bring quickly, and repel me not, saying, “Whence shall I bring it?”
Bring, and deliver the roof of the heavens through the long night from my abundant smoke and lamentations. Bring that which after my death, even out of my dust, will restore me to speech and thanksgiving even as Najjar. Bring me wine, for I am guardian of wine like a goblet, for whatever has gone into my stomach I deliver back completely. Najjar said, “After my death would that my people might be open-eyed to the ecstasy within me."