Updated: Apr 10
Red-bellied macaws nesting near the village
Fishing and hunting are the bedrocks of Kalebaskreek weekly existence, as well as the smattering of government jobs, like teaching and maintenance of grounds. Trapping of parrots had until recently also supplied income for some of the younger people. They mostly trapped young blue-and-yellow macaws by climbing high up into trees and setting up nylon mesh nets, but they would also remove chicks from nests as well as a variety of other parrots. All this is legal in Suriname, only one of two countries that allow trapping and exportation of parrots for the international wildlife trade.
Wild macaws (blue-and-yellow, red-and-green, and scarlet) in a low welfare situation
at a trapper's home
Recently CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) put a temporary ban on exporting blue-and-yellow macaws, red-and-green macaws, and mealy parrots, making it easier to start a community conservation project in Suriname. Kalebaskreek Village, with which we are partnering, agreed to end the trapping and hunting of parrots and instead turn their energy towards parrot conservation. They call themselves Parrot Rangers, and we supply them with equipment, training, and stipends. The project officially began at the end of November 2022 and already the villagers say there are more parrots in the area than before.
Steve-o (in front) helps me translate, for he knows Dutch, Sranan Tongo, and English
I visited the village in late March, 2023. The four months since November have mostly gone well, considering that we are working in three human languages – Dutch, Sranan Tongo, and a bit of English. Twelve rangers have worked every week, counting birds and filling in our count data forms. The week I was with them, we learned together how to monitor the nests in the region, for it is the parrots' reproductive season here. I know a lot about parrot nesting ecology, but I don’t know these local species and this ecosystem, which is swampy with a large river, the Coppename. The Rangers are now set up to not only monitor the population, but also to monitor the success of nests.
Parrot Rangers Sharona, Donivan, and Junita out looking for macaw nests
(to save and not to trap)
One early evening on the boat as the sun was falling into the wide river and the macaws were noisily defending their territories on the shore, Junita, one of the lead coordinators for the rangers, asked me if we had parrots in my country. I said we had one, but they were now extinct (the Carolina parakeet). I then said that there were lots of species from other countries that were now living in the US. “Oh, they are flying around?” After I answered yes, she said, “So then they can come home.” She might not know much about the distances involved or the politics and policies of wildlife regulations, but she did know her heart and homeland. The birds belong here, in their home, and in her home. We will do our best to help these people keep their birds close and flying free. It is only one village, but it IS one, and more than one parrot will be saved while many, many more are harmed by the trapping and trade that continue (See Report, "Guide To Understanding and Reducing Harm to Parrots in Suriname").
More parrots in low welfare conditions (orange-winged amazon parrots)
as explained in above-mentioned report
The day I left, in fact, the rangers saved their first bird. A young macaw chick fell to the ground when trying to fledge from one of our assigned nests, unable to fly. She was found to have deformed feet. The bird is now under the care of Junita. I communicated frequently with Junita how to take care of her and to “not clip her wings.” Clipping wings is a standard practice here for pet birds, but we want this one to fly free around the village, where she might live a full and productive life with Kalebaskreek as her home.
We thank the Rangers for welcoming her, me, and anyone else who would like to tour this ecosystem full of parrots and possibilities. To find out how you might support their dreams of becoming an eco- and scientific tourism destination, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give a donation for this project via our Global Giving page at https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/indigenous-parrot-conservation-in-suriname/photos/#menu and stay tuned as their dreams grow into reality.
Steve-o working in Kalebaskreek