Conservation research leads to sustainable eco-tourism

As a small conservation charity, we at the World Parrot Trust have been enormously helped by partnering with the CASE Open Studentship program. This partnership not only multiplied our support of conservation and research on endangered bird species, it also brings a great deal of legitimacy to this work which is crucial for long-term success.

Dr James Gilardi, Executive Director, World Parrot Trust

The Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot (Amazona barbadensis) is listed as an IUCN threatened species, with a small population on the Dutch-Caribbean island of Bonaire. Researchers collaborated with the World Parrot Trust (WPT), which works closely with a range of stakeholders including parrot enthusiasts, researchers, local communities and government leaders, to gather extensive data about the lifecycle of the parrots and their habitat.

A major focus of the research was to collect as much data as possible about all aspects of parrot biology and develop better tracking methods to gain a greater understanding of their adult lives. Bonaire’s population of Amazona barbadensis was found to be small but stable, with the potential to persist and grow dependent on the protection and proper management of their habitat.

Lifecycle data allowed for the building of models to predict the likelihood of extinction under different conditions, highlighting major threats to the parrot population. Studies into their reproductive habits revealed that they form pair bonds for life, with offspring that are highly dependent on the survival of both parents therefore rendering the population particularly vulnerable to poaching.

Although poaching and the illegal pet trade pose a threat, the importance of wildlife conservation is recognised in Bonaire. Results from this study have fed into a business plan proposed by researcher Dr Sam Williams for a parrot-focused eco-tourism economy in place of the poaching trade, and the Bonaire government is raising awareness about wildlife crimes and enforcing wildlife law. Educating local communities on parrot conservation through outreach activities has encouraged a wider appreciation of the species.

The establishment of 'Echo' by Dr Williams, an NGO working alongside the WPT, the government and other NGOs, ensures the continuation of robust, evidence-based conservation and has facilitated the development of sustainable eco-tourism.

As well as informing conservation on Bonaire, this long term database on parrot biology has the potential to create a template for parrot conservation efforts worldwide.