South Africa’s Cape parrot is among the most endangered parrots on earth with less than 1,000 adults remaining in the wild, and the constant threat of starvation and disease looming… Over the last 350 years we have done a very good job of destroying South Africa’s yellowwood forests, removing millions of millions of large hardwoods to supply railway sleepers and mining timber for the rapid economic boom that resulted from the discovery of gold and diamonds. Some of the highest quality timber available was crudely cut up and used to fuel industrial development. With the yellowwoods, stinkwoods, wild plums, wild olives, ironwoods and knobwoods went important “forest refugia” for many endemic and now threatened species like the Amathole toad, Hogsback frog, Cape parrot, Samango monkey, and other Afromontane forest specialists that depend on these forests being stable for thousands upon thousands of years through ice ages, wet and dry periods, as well as natural distasters like fire and storms. Most of the forest specialists like woodpeckers and barbets are hard to find these days, while the parrots hang on due to their cognitive abilities and intelligence that allow them to literally “make a plan” to adjust to drastic alterations to the forest habitat that they depend on. We need to rebuild these forests or we stand to lose endemic species that cannot be replaced…
Cape parrots now feed on the plums from Japan, pecans from the USA, acorns from England, wattle seeds from Australia, syringa fruits from India, and Jacaranda pods from South America, which have replaced the yellowwood fruits that they used to rely on for over 90% of their diet. Today, they do not even waste their time looking for yellowwood trees in fruit, as there are so few female tress left that bear fruit, while a hundred years ago there would have been a grove of yellowwoods in fruit all year round. Groves that could provide food for many multiples of the currently existing local populations in the Eastern Cape, old Transkei, KwaZulu-Natal, and Limpopo Province. Their new diet has too much fat and sugar in it, and comes up short between january and March when there is nothing to eat. In drought years, starving, malnourished parrots become more susceptible to Pssitacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) and, in 2011, we discovered a 100% infection rate in 48 samples taken from a local population of approximately 275 Cape parrots. Alarming to say the least. It is our responsibility to restore South Africa’s Afromontane yellowwood forests to their former glory. The best research available says that it will take us over 350 years to completely rehabilitate these forests. We, the Wild Bird Trust, plant thousands fo yellowwood trees within degraded forest patches along the Amathole Mountain Range each year. At the same time we plant thousands of wild olives, wild plums and stinkwoods in community-run indigenous tree plots in the valleys below these forest patches to provide new feeding sites for Cape parrots within the next 7-10 years.
Please join the Cape Parrot Project group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/capeparrotproject/) to stay up-to-date on our mission to help save this ambassador of South Africa’s previously impressive yellowwood forests. Like the majestic redwood forests of California and Oregon were chopped down for their amazing red timber, our yellowwoods were also removed because of their wonderful golden timber….
“uPholi” Want a Forest? Rescuing Africa’s Most Endangered Parrot from Extinction: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/12/16/upholi-want-a-forest-rescuing-africas-most-endangered-parrot-from-extinction/
The iziKhwenene Project: Establishing Local Communities as Forest Custodians to Save the Cape Parrot – http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/05/04/the-izikhwenene-project-establishing-local-communities-as-forest-custodians-to-save-the-cape-parrot/
Some awesome YouTube videos, interviews and articles on the Cape parrot…
- A flock of Cape Parrots flying over the Cape Parrot Sanctuary at the University of Fort Hare (Alice Campus). Just listen to the morning chorus… http://youtu.be/Z5J_e5dH-aM
- Short video clip sharing the “Cape Parrot Experience” above the Fort Hare Cape Parrot Sanctuary in Alice with all of you. What we witness for 3-4 months each year is nothing short of breathtaking! http://youtu.be/JjQ7rn6ZCTI
- Afrikaans radio news broadcast on the Endangered Cape parrot and what is being done to save them… http://youtu.be/FuatEaGECy8
- First-ever footage of the Endangered Cape Parrot feeding in the high canopy of a yellowwood tree. In September 2009, we perched on the edge of a cliff using vocalization playbacks to call in Cape parrots. An old breeding pair that knew the ways of their ancestors stopped to feed three days in a row… http://youtu.be/b1ujh0WikOc & http://youtu.be/Hl0p5QoQVqI
- Brilliant radio interview on Cape Talk about the plight of the Endangered Cape Parrot. This interview introduced many South Africans to their very own national parrot… http://youtu.be/gak9F7mVWJE
- Dr Steve Boyes interviewed by SafariTalk on developments in the Cape Parrot Project: http://safaritalk.net/topic/7575-dr-steve-boyes-the-cape-parrot-project-wild-bird-trust/
- Informative article on South Africa’s only endemic parrot and the issues facing this ambassador of the Afromontane forest patches they depend upon: http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/africa_birds/ABB16(4)66-67.pdf