Conserving One of the Most Endangered Birds on Earth
One of the most endangered birds in the world, the Puerto Rican parrot had its population reduced to just 13 wild parrots in 1975. Habitat loss, hurricanes and predation had devastated a population that once numbered in the tens of thousands.
Thanks to a conservation effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, managers feel the species is heading toward a successful recovery. A breeding program that began in the 1970s, using collected eggs and chicks, has produced an aviary population of more than 240 individuals in two aviaries near Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest and Rio Abajo Forest Reserve. Some of these parrots have been reintroduced to the wild; 60 wild and reintroduced birds now inhabit the surrounding forest.
In recent years, as the aviary population continued to grow, managers found they needed help organizing more than three decades of records. While births, deaths, transfers and releases had been meticulously recorded, the information wasn’t centralized, making it difficult to access or analyze.
The aviary biologists began a collaboration with Lincoln Park Zoo, which has a wealth of population-management expertise. Zoo scientists traveled to Puerto Rico, where hundreds of records were entered into PopLink, a zoo-developed software program, enabling parrot managers to analyze trends in the population.
Wildlife managers in Puerto Rico continue to partner with Lincoln Park Zoo. Managers and scientists meet regularly to assess population changes and project future growth, aiding the strategic planning necessary for this endangered species to continue on the path to recovery.