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The effective reduction of yellow-shouldered parrot poaching requires a sweet of adaptive and responsive interventions

Published source details

Briceño-Linares J.M., Rodríguez J.P., Rodríguez-Clark K.M., Rojas-Suárez F., Millán P.A., Vittori E.G. & Carrasco-Muñoz M. (2011) Adapting to changing poaching intensity of yellow-shouldered parrot (Amazona barbadensis) nestlings in Margarita Island, Venezuela. Biological Conservation, 144, 1188-1193

Background

Hunting and trapping for the pet trade are amongst the primary extinction risk factors for half of threatened birds species, especially parrots (55 % of which are threatened). The control of poaching requires diffusing networks of hunters and consumers. This study examined a portfolio of conservation interventions, built incrementally between 2000 and 2009, aimed at reducing poaching and increasing parrot recruitment (relative to data from a 1990-1999 baseline).

Action

On one island (330 km2) a series of sequential interventions were trialled: from 2000-2003, an environmental education program, focused on older elementary schoolchildren (8-13 years old), was established by providing information, training, resources and support to local elementary school teachers. Schools hosted environmental days and started environmental brigades. At the end of each breeding season, a "parrot festival'' was organized by one of the towns. In 2004, a team of five young men of a similar age, background and social context as poachers, were recruited from local communities to monitor nests on a 24 h basis. Beginning in 2005, fledglings from high-risk nests (further away from the base) in the study area were moved to 18 foster nests near the field base. Assisted breeding (removing all the fledglings from a given nest and placing them in a labelled wooden box after sunset, transporting them to a secure facility, and returning them to the nest at sunrise) was also established in 2005 and initiated once the parents stopped spending the night inside the nests (30-40 days after hatching). In 2007, natural nesting sites were supplemented with 12 artificial verawood (Bulnesia arborea) nests. From 2005-2007, fledglings from the assisted breeding intervention were moved to the field base nightly and biomonitors remained with them all night. In 2008, the Macanao Municipal Police helped with surveillance in the field and escorted the fledglings every night to police headquarters instead of the field base. In 2009, birds were taken nightly to the National Guard headquarters.

Consequences

From 2000-2003, the only intervention was environmental education in schools: in the short term it had no impact on poaching, which reached 100 % of nestlings in monitored nests. Implementation of 24 h surveillance by biomonitors in 2004 resulted in a decrease in poaching from to 56 % in 2004. The use of foster nests and assisted breeding in 2005 further decreased poaching to 18 %, achieving 0 % poaching in 2006. In 2007, the field base was raided by armed poachers who took 60 % of the fledglings protected under the assisted breeding scheme. In 2008, the municipal police received the birds nightly during the breeding season, which brought poaching rates down to 16 % in 2008 and 1% in 2009 (with the involvement of the National Guard).

Per-nest production doubled and poaching was halved over 2004-2009: during 1990-1999, there were 32 nests, 53 birds fledged on average per year (1.6 birds / nest) and 49 % lost to poachers. During 2004-2009, the mean number of nests monitored in the study area was 13, with 49 birds fledged on average per year (3.8 birds / nest), and a 25 % poaching rate. Of the 12 artificial nests established in 2007-2009, six were used (1 used every year, 1 used in 2007 and 2008, and 4 used only once), which equated to 25 % nest use rate.

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