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Breaking the Illegal Wildlife Trade Chain Through Economic Support

The chain of the wildlife trade has two ends. One begins with local community members or perhaps professional poachers, who then sell to local buyers, and then national and international buyers. At the other end of this chain is the final buyer who wants the parrots for their home or business, for company, adornment, and status.

Tackling all points in the chain, from community supported monitoring and law enforcement, to education and income alternatives, has one goal: As many birds as possible are meant to be left where they are, the supply stopped at the source. - Nadine Freischlad in "Group helps illegal bird traders transition into different lines of business."

At One Earth Conservation we address each link in the chain, either directly through our projects or supporting other organizations. We help those on the demand side of the trade (end-buyers) by our None Are Free Until All Are Free campaign which discourages keeping birds captive or trading them as commodities. We also seek to help those on the other end of the chain, those who trap the birds.

For example, in Honduras La Moskitia 103 people received funds for participating in our conservation project, including 84 men, women, and youth who make up the community patrols that guard the endangered Central American scarlet macaw. This has been a surprisingly successful project, dropping from 100% loss of birds to the wildlife trade in 2014 within our core conservation area, to none in 2016 and 2017.

Miskito indigena people working for parrot conservation

Every conservation project is an art, and a dance of relationships, so direct community employment may not work in every region, with every project, and for every year. But what it does do is help people directly and immediately for the time period they are employed, and helps save those particular parrots from entering the wildlife trade. The cash income, especially in areas bereft of possible forms of employment, helps nurture communities by giving them a chance to have better food, better health care, and better care and materials for their school age children. It also gives the community members a sense of pride, meaning, teamwork, contribution, and respect.

Though we positively impact many people in our various projects, the need outpaces us. For instance, in November I was in Nicaragua, whose tourism has been leveled by the ongoing civic unrest. Businesses in general have also suffered. Everyone I spoke to had at least one story of how their family had been hurt by the depressed economy. Many people are without jobs, which means two things:

1. Employing community members becomes ever more central to the lives of in-country conservationists

2. Other community members outside of the project are more desperate for income, and the risk of poaching increases.

Because of the situation we and our partners are putting more attention in Nicaragua. Thanks to our donors, we were able to increase our presence in the area by supporting 16 community members in July to survey both the wild and homed populations of parrots. We also hope to include more communities in our protection efforts and do special projects in population monitoring in 2019. Alas, we have two recently rescued wild chicks that need to be cared for and released. This was an unexpected burden on the project members because we did plan to have funds or staff for this effort. The team though has increased their time and involved their families to take care of these birds.

Ana taking care of the two rescued chicks on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

The local community members are also increasing their efforts in patrolling and monitoring their nests, and donate extra volunteer hours to keep the nests of soon to fledge yellow-naped parrots safe. Currently in one section of the island we have 18 nests about to fledge, up from 6 active nests last year. This is due to the very hard work of community members, LOCOs, and Fauna and Flora International.

All of us do this for the parrots yes, but also for the people in the communities where the parrots nest, forage, and roost. They do not want to lose their parrots and are willing to work hard to keep them flying free. We from outside the communities merely partner with them, seeking funds where we can to support them.

Thanks for any support you can offer to aid Nicaragua and their parrots in their time of need. We will emphasizing this project for our fund raising efforts at our Holiday Parrot Party and Fundraiser next week and until the end of the year.

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