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Perfection in Parrot Conservation

Guanaja Island, Honduras: October 2018

Atop Guanaja Island counting the endangered yellow-naped parrot (below)

Okay, first off, there is no such thing as "perfection" in conservation. It's an art that depends on so many factors, and the success of which depends on the relationships of the people and their commitment to each other, their sense of place, and the birds. Every project develops differently and at its own pace.

Conservation success goes like a ship, you never know where the winds will take you, but with many taking charge and leading the way, you can make progress.

Thanks to this team as shown in many photos below!

Now having said that, my recent work in October 2018 with the people of Guanaja was an affirmation of how quickly conservation can happen when dedicated actors and resources come together to save an endangered parrot, such as the yellow-naped parrot on this island (the only parrot species on the island). The confluence of so many, doing much so, so quickly, was nothing short of a miracle.

Merdado above (and above the island counting) and Derrick below, one of our captains

It takes a boat to get to almost all the survey locations,

which means there is always a chance for a swim!

The team spirit quickly came together as we sport our "Parrot Fly Free" bands.

For instance, I was met at the airport by 10 people, all ready to get going on conservation. While there, our team consisted of several local poachers and buyers, ecotourist operators, scientists from 3 countries, the government of Guanaja (including the mayor's office), boat captains, restaurant owners, land owners, veterinarians, interns, and dedicated conservationists already on the island.

Marlon showing me where the parrots are flying.

Within 5 days we accomplished a quick survey of the island using the "Fixed Transect Method of Rapidly Assessing the Minimum Number of Distinct Individual (MNDI) of Parrots" (LoraKim Joyner, in press, Yuum Revista). Team members boated, walked, climbed, and camped to get to survey locations, often up at 2:30 a.m. to get to sites by the 5 a.m. starting time. We did not adequately survey the West End of the island, nor did we survey all possible roost sites on the East End. But we did count in 19 areas to get a MNDI of 323.

Roland Rumm, one of the leaders of this work, was injured on the first day of our work,

but he was out counting parrots barely more than 24 hours later!

Within these 5 days team members were soaked, dehydrated, tired, sleepy, bug bit, blistered, injured, and hungry, not just for food, but for safeguarding and replenishing the population of parrots on their island, and for others, on their homeland in the Americas where this species occurs. The team continued to work for another week after I left and already there are plans for a Rescue and Liberation Center, an education and awareness program, nest monitoring and protection activities, and building the team's infrastructure and capacity.

Family at Roland's Roost working to liberate their parrots, and as they do so, they free themselves.

This is such good news for the people and parrots of Guanaja! The bad news is that they don't really need me anymore, and I will have to come up with various excuses to revisit and be in solidarity with the picture perfect beauty of this island.

I look to the future with them, and am glad

Special thanks to Roland Rumm, Sue Hendrickson, and the Guanaja Island Municipality.

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