Recognising the emerging and growing threats to the population of yellow-naped parrots, a Nicaraguan ornithological group, BIOMETEPE, partnered with Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and One Earth Conservation to implement a protection programme on Ometepe island. The programme aims to improve the existing knowledge about the size, health and reproductive success of the population of the parrots, as well as protect the species through community-led patrols and education campaigns.
Formed by two volcanoes rising from Lake Nicaragua, Ometepe is the one of the largest freshwater islands in the world. The island boasts a diverse mosaic of forest and wetland habitats within its 276 km² area and supports a wide array of species. Today the island has nearly 40,000 residents, who mainly rely on subsistence and commercial agriculture, fishing and tourism for their livelihoods.
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected Yellow-naped Amazon parrot Amazona auropalliataProducts in trade
Live chicks and eggs
Overview of the problem
Between 1980 and 2000, yellow-naped parrot populations declined by an estimated 50%, reportedly disappearing from more northern parts of their historic range, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. The current global population is estimated to be as low as 10,000 mature individuals.
This charismatic species is among the most popular parrot for the pet trade, as they are intelligent, sociable, and able to mimic human speech. Levels of poaching of parrot chicks have been found to be as high as 100% in some areas of Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica.
In Nicaragua, all capture and trade in the parrot has been illegal since 2013. However, the birds continue to be offered as pets on road sides, are available for sale in urban markets, and are transported to markets in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States and China. Known nesting sites are targeted and the parrots are taken directly from the nests as chicks or as eggs in a practice that is escalating alarmingly.
An FFI-supported 2018 study into the form and extent of the illegal trade in parrots on Ometepe island confirmed that the trafficking network includes outsiders working together with local people to extract chicks and/or eggs, to meet both national and international demand. There is also local demand for the parrots as pets on Ometepe.
During interviews with key informants from the communities, it was revealed that many locals have been extracting parrots for several years as it is an easy way to generate income. Recently, socio-political tensions in Nicaragua have led to reduced tourism and employment opportunities, meaning people are resorting to poaching for money.
The anti-IWT initiative
BIOMETEPE, FFI and One Earth Conservation have collaborated to target the primary threats to the parrot from illegal wildlife trade. The strategy has involved population counts, surveys and monitoring of parrot nests during the nesting season. Surveys in 2017 identified four priority roosting and nesting areas, which harbour an estimated 60% of the parrot population on Ometepe across a total of 500 hectares of forest. In 2018 the programme began to support community-led protection and monitoring patrols across these four sites. Young people in particular have been targeted for involvement in monitoring and protecting the parrots. Capacity building activities have included the creation of conservation groups that are responsible for involving community members in wildlife protection. Many of the patrol team are volunteers.
The programme has collaborated with private farms to creative an incentive scheme for protection of nests. Farmers receive goods such as machetes, macanas, hammers and nails in return for environmental stewardship. Retaliatory killings of birds due to crop raiding is not uncommon, and the programme has worked with farmers to try and reduce this threat.
The programme has made significant efforts in environmental education and awareness raising, as well as promoting participation and strengthening local capacity for wildlife conservation action on the island. BIOMETEPE has developed an environmental education plan with primary, secondary and community schools to increase the level of knowledge on the conservation of wild species and natural resources.
Ometepe attracts more than 40,000 tourists each year. BIOMETEPE has proposed implementing tourism alternatives to new sites that are conserved and managed in a sustainable manner such as Parrot Tours, birdwatching and agroecological farm tours. Part of the income generated from tourism could then support conservation actions.
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship
Decreasing the costs of living with wildlife
Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife
Build/and or support sense of community ownership or stewardship
Improving education and awareness
Has the initiative made a difference?
This programme is working to foster strong participation and leadership of the local community in protection and monitoring patrols, and to help deepen local knowledge and commitment to parrot conservation in Ometepe.
- The programme has generated important new data on the nesting ecology of the island population of parrots, leading to enhanced community patrols and protection of nests.
- A focus and recognition within the community of the importance of conserving not only the yellow-naped parrot but also all of Ometepe’s biodiversity and natural resources has been strengthened.
- The programme has motivated many other local organisations and NGOs to collaborate with the community and BIOMETEPE to protect and conserve natural resources.
Factors for success
Supportive, multi-stakeholder partnerships with a shared vision
Sufficient time investment in building relationships and trust between the initiative and local communities
Effective and accountable community-based natural resources management institutions
What doesn’t work and why
In Nicaragua there are difficulties in creating synergy and a shared vision between multiple actors. One of the major limitations has been the possession of municipal properties by the community for pastures and coffee plantations in the nesting areas of the parrot.
Many community members fear poachers but there is a lack of people and institutional capacity with the authoritative power or means to safely denounce illegal activities.
Factors that limited or hindered success
Lack of supportive national policy/legislation for devolved governance of natural resources
Lack of supportive national policy/legislation on sustainable use of natural resources
Lack of devolved decision-making power so local communities have a voice in creating or co-creating solutions (as part of the initiative)
Lack of clearly defined tenure or resource use rights
Organisers, donors and partners
Fauna & Flora International, One Earth Conservation, Loro Parque Fundación, New England Biolabs Foundation, Clovis Foundation and Christiana Martinowsky
For further information contact Norlan Zambrana Morales (firstname.lastname@example.org).