THE TUCUMAN PARROT RESERVE: A NATURAL SANCTUARY AT THE EXTREME NORTHERN END OF THE SOUTHERN YUNGAS
IMPORTANCE OF THE TUCUMAN PARROT RESERVE
Cloud forests extend along the eastern slope of the mountain ranges of the Andes -- the Southern Yungas -- between Bolivia and Argentina. The Southern Yungas ecosystem is characterized by great biological diversity (as diverse, perhaps, as the tropical rain forest) and is considered one of the most threatened ecosystems in Bolivia. The Southern Yungas have been poorly studied botanically. It is estimated that the Southern Yungas have lost more than 60% of their original area. The Tucuman Parrot (Amazona tucumana) is endemic to the Southern Yungas and it is estimated that the global population of this species has declined by 75% in the last three decades, due primarily to habitat loss and the pet trade. Currently, illegal trade of the Tucuman Parrot remains a major threat. Making things even worse is that the methods used to capture them, such as when the chicks are removed from the nest, often result in the destruction of the tree nest for future generations. The Tucuman Parrot Reserve is situated in the Municipality of Quirusillas in the Department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, an area that represents the extreme northern end of the Southern Yungas. It is here that the lowest population levels of this species have been recorded. In this area during the eighties, captures of the species for the pet trade were the highest. Implementing strategies to restore the population of this species in this region is urgently needed in order to prevent the local extinction of this species.
THREATS TO THE TUCUMAN PARROT RESERVE
The Tucuman Parrot has highly specific nesting habitat requirements. As in all of its range, adequate nesting sites are scarce and surrounding areas are under pressure due to logging. The diet of the nestlings is composed almost entirely of the flowers and seeds of a local tree, the named “Pino de Cerro” (Podocarpus parlatorei), which is becoming scarce at a global level because of logging. Currently, a local sawmill is attempting to gain logging rights to areas in the vicinity of the Tucuman Parrot Reserve. If so, this reserve will be the last nesting location of this threatened bird at the northern end of the Southern Yungas.
Deforestation, which is advancing towards the forest that protects the Tucuman Parrot Reserve, can be seen at the top of the photograph.
ARMONÍA AND ITS WORK AT THE TUCUMAN PARROT RESERVE
Armonía is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitat in Bolivia. Conservation actions by Armonía are prioritized based on scientific studies that are carried out in collaboration with, and respecting the cultural values of local communities. Armonía has worked in Bolivia since 1994 and currently runs eighteen conservation programs and projects with the participation of more than 35 people. Armonía is a partner of the American Bird Conservancy, BirdLife International and the World Land Trust, three international organizations committed to biodiversity conservation. Armonía has identified the Quirusillas Township as a key site for the conservation of the Tucuman Parrot, since it is located at the northern end of the Southern Yungas, holds well-preserved patches of forest, and is a confirmed nesting site for this endangered species. Since 2007, Armonía has carried out environmental education and awareness activities in the region. Thanks to these efforts, in 2009 Quirusillas promulgated a law placing the Tucuman Parrot on the municipal coat of arms, declared the town’s opposition to the capture and sale of the Tucuman Parrot, and named the species a Natural Heritage. The Tucuman Parrot Reserve is found within the northern breeding grounds of this endangered bird, and will allow us to conserve and protect this area permanently, preventing burning for cattle pasture and the logging of tree species that are critical breeding and dietary resources for the Tucuman Parrot.
PLANS FOR ESTABLISHING THE RESERVE
The Tucuman Parrot Reserve covers an area of 40 acres of mature forest. It is important we understand what and how to best protect this area. Local experts suggest this rare habitat could contain endemic and rare orchid species. Jointly with the Municipality of Quirusillas, Armonía’s Tucuman Parrot Conservation Project is preparing the Tucuman Parrot Reserve Management Plan, which will be an essential tool for managing this area. Essential for informing this plan is an inventory of the biodiversity present in the reserve. Thus, one of the research priorities is the inventory of important plant species, among which stands out the orchid family.
ORCHID INVENTORY BUDGET: US $ 900
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia