Women for Conservation

Empowering Women to Save the Blue-billed Curassow

Women protecting Blue-billed Curassow

Since 2004, Women for Conservation has collaborated with rural communities at five distinct sites of astounding biodiversity in Colombia to protect endangered species and their habitats. By offering workshops that raise awareness about threats to local wildlife, we empower women and children with conservation education and help them to develop projects and sustainable livelihoods that preserve nature and prevent species extinction.

For instance, in the community of Puerto Pinzón in the lowland rain forests of central Colombia’s Magdalena Valley, the ecosystems of the Amazon and Chocó converge to produce astonishing levels of biodiversity. As a result, the area harbors extraordinary endemism (species that are found nowhere else on earth), like the Blue-billed Curassow (Crax alberti). A turkey-sized bird with a blue-colored bill and curly black feathers on its head resembling a mohawk, the Blue-billed Curassow is ranked as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. As a result of rampant deforestation primarily for logging, cattle ranching, and Blue-billed Curassowcoca plantations, nearly 98% of the bird’s habitat has been destroyed. The Curassow’s range has shrunk dramatically, so that it is mostly found within a single site. In addition, hunting of the bird and collection of its eggs for food has devastated the species, making it exceedingly rare.

To help save the Blue-billed Curassow from extinction, Women for Conservation and Colombian partner Fundación ProAves concentrated on raising awareness about the species among the local community. Several conservation workshops were hosted, encouraging women and children to protect the Curassow. Subsequently, a number of conservation activities were initiated to save the species. For instance, local residents entered into a participatory agreement in which they promised to end hunting and find an alternative food source.

Furthermore, to protect the species’ habitat, fuel-efficient stoves were introduced, which reduced wood consumption and deforestation. In addition, habitat was protected by teaching women sustainable livelihoods, such as collecting tagua nuts from the forest, which could be used to produce sellable elegant jewelry and artisan crafts, replacing their dependence on cattle ranching and other environmentally destructive practices. Finally, a tree nursery with native species was established by the women’s group as a model for the community and was used to teach propagation of these species and the importance of reforestation.

With great thanks to our conservation program, today the Blue-billed Curassow is locally recognized and respected as an emblem of the natural heritage of the community. In fact, the Curassow is even celebrated in an annual festival. Now that a safe haven has been created for this unique bird, there has been a significant increase in sightings and group sizes in the area, signifying that the population is rebounding locally.

Project details

Location: Magdalena Valley - Colombia

Key Species:Blue-billed Curassow (CR), Magdalena Spider Monkey (CR), Magdalena Lowland Tapir (VU), Spectacled Bear (VU), Jaguar (NT).

Habitat:Rain forest

Primary Threats:Habitat loss

Conservation Actions:Participatory agreements to prevent hunting; introduction of fuel-efficient cook stoves; training in sustainable production of jewelry from Tagua seeds; provision of access to voluntary family planning and health clinics