Women for Conservation

Planting Trees to Save the Endangered Yellow-eared Parrot

The montane forests of Colombia’s central Andes are the only remaining home of the Endangered Yellow-eared Parrot, a magnificent green parrot with yellow cheeks.

Once common in Colombia and Ecuador, the species was believed to be extinct by the late 1900s as a result of hunting and rampant habitat destruction. In particular, the parrot highly depends on trees like the Quindío Wax Palm that have been heavily harvested. Requiring nearly 500 years to mature, these slow-growing trees provide essential roosting and nesting sites for the Yellow-eared Parrot, whose survival is interconnected with the wax palm.

Our local Colombian partner has worked for nearly two decades to save this parrot from extinction. By protecting its remaining habitat and launching public campaigns to raise awareness about the species, local communities now recognize the Yellow-eared Parrot as part of their natural heritage and celebrate it in annual festivals. This ongoing conservation work has enabled a miraculous recovery for the species – from just 81 individuals in 1999 to more than 1,400 individuals today. However, the parrot, and the montane Andean forest itself, continue to face many threats, among them land clearing to make way for agriculture and cattle grazing.

Wax palms are just one important component of the complex habitat upon which the yellow-eared parrot and other wildlife of the Andes depend. Many other species of trees make up this unique ecosystem and provide forage and shelter for a wide variety of species including the Endangered Dusky Starfrontlet and the Vulnerable Spectacled Bear. This is why Women for Conservation is taking a broad approach to reforestation of the Andean mountains, working with local women to plant 5,000 native trees, including Quindío Wax Palm and other essential fruiting trees. The women’s group will establish a tree nursery, collecting seeds and raising tree saplings for this project. By restoring Colombia’s montane forests, the amount of available food sources and roosting sites will increase, helping the Yellow-eared Parrot to flourish so that its population can rebound from the brink of extinction.

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