Updated: May 5
Poacher's bag with the team that saved the nest - Evelyn in the middle
The young parrot protector, Evelyn, heard some voices coming towards her, and so she hid. She was by herself protecting a yellow-headed parrot nest a long way from home. The five men looked like poachers to her and indeed they halted in the muddy water at the base of the nest tree. She backed away and took off running to warn other rangers who were guarding a more distant nest. With reinforcements she returned to the nest and confronted the men who lied that they weren’t there to poach the nest of this highly endangered bird in Guatemala. Not believing them, the parrot rangers escorted the men out of the community lands. Later that same day they had to repeat this process with two more presumed poachers. They were on super high alert and had caught these men, because just two weeks before poachers had come while the rangers had taken a lunch break back in the village and the poachers took advantage of this and robbed one of the nests.
A few days after Evelyn’s heroic action, I went with the team of rangers, skirting the muddy pool, looking up at the nest tree (right) while Evelyn told me her story. While she was talking one of the other rangers discovered a discarded bag that the poachers had hidden near the tree. The contents consisted of a saw, a rope, a flashlight, a towel, a water bottle, a plastic container with moldy food, and an empty beer can. Poachers travel light and move fast, so I congratulated this committed team in being able to ward off the poachers who, without their actions, surely would have taken the rest of their nests.
Contents of the poacher's bag
The next day I was with half of the team reviewing some nests further away, and we paused in silence as we heard voices coming from unknown men who should not be in the forest patch. With hand signals we communicated that we should split up; two of us went to a nest and the other two followed the tracks in the mud to find the poachers. One ranger checked his pistol to make sure it was in ready order. We didn’t find the poachers that day, but not even a week later, the poachers had taken two red-lored amazon nests (two photos below by Selvin Saavedra), and today, another group of poachers was escorted out of the area. If the poachers shift to night time poaching we are in for a world of hurt here, for it would mean camping under the nests and keeping guard 24/7, a huge task for this team, and for any parrot protection team.
These people are mounting an incredible effort, especially considering that they only returned recently to their village after they had to flee it during the back-to-back hurricanes in November 2020. But I worry for them. Some poachers carry fire arms, and all have machetes. For that reason, we are working with CONAP, a government wildlife protection agency, to patrol this area as often as we can afford. They are accompanied by other government agencies as well as the military (photos by Julian Serrato below of recent military operation where the nests are).
These people need support to keep the parrots of the world flying free and to rebuild the forest, the parrot population, and their lives. One of the young rangers said, “I thought about immigrating to the USA, but the parrots and my family need me.”
The rangers with their support team - CONAP, village elder, and community dogs!
If you would like to help these young rangers, please consider donating or spreading the word about their efforts. Let us not hide the truth of their lives and of the risk that exists for them and their parrots. It will mean the world to them to know that you are walking with them