Stunning Success for Parrots Once Thought Extinct

Yelllow-eared Parrot
Yellow-eared Parrot
Yellow-eared Parrot Corridor

The Yellow-eared Parrot, once widely-considered extinct, now numbers over 1,000 and has been downgraded from “Critically Endangered” to “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Parrots’ remarkable recovery comes after years of efforts by Rainforest Trust partner Fundación ProAves to buy and protect the unique habitat of this colorful bird.

The overall population of Yellow-eared Parrot dwindled to near zero during the latter half of the 20th century as a result of extensive habitat loss. The bird was generally thought extinct–until 1998, when researchers from Fundación ProAves were stunned to find a colony of 81 Yellow-eared Parrots in Colombia’s Andes Mountains.

That discovery presented a new responsibility and a critical challenge: protecting the quickly-vanishing habitat of these extremely rare birds and growing the colony to levels that would better ensure long term survival.

Fundación ProAves, in partnership with American Bird Conservancy, Rainforest Trust, Conservation International, and the Loro Parque Foundation, spearheaded the Yellow-eared Parrot Project to ensure the survival of the bird and to purchase land for protection in its fragile habitat.

This extraordinary success is the result of years of surveys and monitoring by ProAves researchers, who documented the most important areas for conservation in a region where less than 5% of the native forest survives.

“Today, almost 11 years later, we see the results of the ongoing work of over 180 individuals and 47 organizations around the world. This also includes contributions by local communities as well as success in research, conservation, and environmental education activities,” said ProAves President Alonso Quevedo.

Key to this breakthrough were the habitat-conservation efforts of various individuals and organizations.

In April 2009, Rainforest Trust was presented with an urgent appeal to purchase critical habitat for the Yellow-eared Parrot. Recognizing the importance of this appeal, Rainforest Trust donor Frank Friedrich Kling from Illinois, committed to funding half the acquisition cost as part of a matching gift campaign. This generous matching support persuaded many Rainforest Trust supporters to donate to the appeal, allowing ProAves to acquire 7,448 acres. Our donors also helped leverage additional support from American Bird Conservancy, IUCN Netherlands/SPN in conjunction with the Netherlands Postcode Lottery, Conservation International, and Robert Wilson, allowing a further 2,614 acres to be acquired.

In total, our partner acquired and saved 10,062 acres on the eastern slope of the Central Andes of Colombia which connect to a further 6,653 acres of cloud forest already under their protection on the mountain chain’s western flank, creating an expansive natural reserve for the parrots.

“This amazing success is proof positive that Rainforest Trust, working in conjunction with local partners, is making a demonstrable difference in the preservation of critically endangered species,” said Rainforest Trust supporter Frank F. Kling.

“I am grateful to have participated in the fundraising campaign that made this possible and now look forward to the next Rainforest Trust critical appeal.”

“In light of the numerous challenges facing wildlife conservation, it’s inspiring to know that we are making the difference between extinction and preservation,” Kling added.

The 14-mile-long Yellow-eared Parrot Conservation Corridor gives this burgeoning population of endangered parrots a secure place to call home and stands as a testament to the power of private land purchase for conservation.

Today, the population of Yellow-eared Parrots numbers over 1,000 individuals, a key threshold for the recovery of the population. Conservation efforts continue with the hope that the spectacular Yellow-eared parrot will once again be a common sight across the Andes of Colombia.

For more information on the project, click here.