Archive for South Africa

IUCN Species of the Day: Burnup’s Hunter Slug

Posted in IUCN Species of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2011 by Bush Warriors

 

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(tm)

Burnups Hunter Slug Photo Credit: Dai Hurbert

Photo credit: Dai Hurbert

 

Burnup’s Hunter Slug, Chlamydephorus burnupi, is listed as ‘VULNERABLE’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Continue reading

Video of the day: Vulture Whisperer….Today only 2900 breeding pairs of the Cape Vulture remain worldwide

Posted in Uncategorized, African Wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2011 by Dori G

Meet an extraordinary lady, Kerri Wolters, somewhat of a “vulture whisperer” is a determined presence in the conservation world. Her ability to connect with and handle these birds as well as, to conduct wild captures, puts Kerri among the very few who recognize and advocate the vital role vultures play within society. Kerri takes us on a Path into the Future exploring not only threats on vulture survival, such as the muti trade and urbanization but the wealth of knowledge and freedom that these birds can pass on to the human race. Taking a unique opportunity to para-glide, Kerri goes beyond the confines of the vulture enclosure and gains a perspective of life through the eyes and wings of the birds. Gliding with these misunderstood creatures Kerri’s eyes are further opened to the amount of beauty and wonder the modern world misses out on, she invites us as individuals to experience nature and thus gain an understanding of why this planet so deserves our protection. Today only 2900 breeding pairs of the Cape Vulture remain worldwide. To learn more about this extraordinary bird and the efforts to keep these pairs alive pls visit www.vultureconservation.co.za Path into the Future is produced by Green Renaissance Productions. For more info go to – www.greenrenaissance.co.za

IUCN Species of the Day: Blue River Crab

Posted in IUCN Species of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2011 by Bush Warriors

 

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(tm)
Blue River Crab

Photo credit: Neil Cumberidge

 

The Blue River Crab, Potamonautes lividus, is listed as ‘VULNERABLE’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Continue reading

Feathered Extinction: Habitat Loss and Illegal Trade Threaten Doom for Africa’s Parrots, World Parrot Trust Africa to the Rescue!

Posted in Biodiversity, Birds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2011 by drsteveboyes

Originally featured on 17 December, 2011.

Parrots have the largest number of threatened species of all bird families. Over 100 of the 332 known parrot species are threatened with extinction in the wild, and the declines of about 78 of these are being fueled by habitat loss and fragmentation. Roughly 39 are heavily pressured by capture and nest poaching for the wild-caught bird trade.

Photo credit: Chuck Bergman

Cavity-nesting forest specialists, like our African parrots, are particularly sensitive to forest degradation due to their reliance on large hardwood trees for sustenance and nesting opportunities. Deforestation rates in Africa are the second highest world, claiming over four million hectares of forest cover every year. Logging, wildfire, tree felling for use as fuel, the booming charcoal production industry, civil unrest, and conversion of land for agriculture and expansion of the human population are the primary forces driving the rampant destruction of critical African parrot habitat.

Continue reading

Tattoo of the Day

Posted in Tattoo of the Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2011 by Bush Warriors

Tattoo by Tony Sklepic.

While most know that zebras’ stripes serve as camouflage for protection from predators (when grouped together, their stripes make it hard for a predator to see just a single individual), there remains the conundrum of: Is it a black coat with white stripes, or a white coat with black stripes?   Continue reading

Feathered Extinction: Habitat Loss and Illegal Trade Threaten Doom for Africa’s Parrots, World Parrot Trust Africa to the Rescue!

Posted in Birds, World Parrot Trust with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by drsteveboyes

Parrots have the largest number of threatened species of all bird families.  Over 100 of the 332 known parrot species are threatened with extinction in the wild, and the declines of about 78 of these are being fueled by habitat loss and fragmentation.  Roughly 39 are heavily pressured by capture and nest poaching for the wild-caught bird trade.

Photo credit: Chuck Bergman

Cavity-nesting forest specialists, like our African parrots, are particularly sensitive to forest degradation due to their reliance on large hardwood trees for sustenance and nesting opportunities.  Deforestation rates in Africa are the second highest world, claiming over four million hectares of forest cover every year.  Logging, wildfire, tree felling for use as fuel, the booming charcoal production industry, civil unrest, and conversion of land for agriculture and expansion of the human population are the primary forces driving the rampant destruction of critical African parrot habitat.

Deforestation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (photo credit: Daniel Beltra)

A recent review of the Meyer’s Parrot range revealed that 15 of the 18 nations this species inhabits had undergone significant losses in forest cover.  Deforestation rates of 15% and higher were not uncommon and several countries, such as Kenya and Malawi, have less than 1% of their original forested area remaining.  Unfortunately, a lack of records over the last 30-40 years prevents us from being able to assess the effects of deforestation on bird populations.  We simply do not know how well African parrots are adapting to their rapidly changing environment.

Meyer’s Parrot (photo credit: Cyril Laubscher)

The World Parrot Trust Africa seeks to coordinate a continent-wide survey of all African parrot species over the coming years to determine which species are of immediate priority for conservation intervention.  The goal is to secure healthy populations of all African parrot species and sufficient suitable habitat, while also providing them adequate protection.

Photo credit: Steve Boyes   

Unregulated trade in African parrots peaked in the 1980s and ’90s, and still exists today.  This lucrative black market industry is fueled by profiteering middlemen who exploit wild bird populations.  In 2005, the Senegal Parrot was the most traded bird on the CITES Appendix II, with over 45,000 individuals being removed from forests each year.  In Namibia, cross-border trade in wild-caught Ruppell’s Parrots in the 1990s resulted in their disappearance from many parts of this species’ distributional range where they were once abundant. Today, African parrots remain among the most traded in the world.

Wild birds are sometimes smuggled in plastic bottles.

According to the most conservative estimates, over three million African parrots have been snatched from the wild over the last 25–30 years.  As can be seen in Table 1 (below) there are, several species, such as the African Grey Parrot, have been almost exclusively sourced from the wild over the last few decades.  Immense and insatiable demands from China, Taiwan, Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia are driving international trade in African parrots.

In South Africa, a legal loophole allows these birds to be legally imported into the country, as long as they have been checked and approved by a South African veterinarian before leaving the source country.  This allows for thousands of wild-caught African Greys to be imported into South Africa every year, from sources like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and West Africa.  Most of these parrots then enter the local market, but the best specimens are re-exported to the fast-growing markets in the Middle East and, especially, in the Far East.

African Greys seized from illegal trade (photo credit: PASA/WPT)

There are three things we need to do to protect all wild populations from the devastating impacts of this trade.  First and foremost, we must minimise the number of African parrots being taken from the wild.  Secondly, we must also support captive breeders that adhere to strict guidelines and standards concerning the animals’ care and well-being.  Finally, it is imperative that we get out into the African forests and determine whether the continued removal of parrots from their habitat poses a serious threat of extinction or if it is, in fact, sustainable.

 

Jardine’s Parrot for sale in west Africa (photo credit: Greg Shaw)

 

Africa’s parrots are charismatic, colourful, and larger than life. They have found their way into the hearts and minds of private collectors, parrot enthusiasts, and aviculturalists around the world.  Most African parrot breeders that I interact with are extremely passionate about these birds and have specialized in raising our Poicephalus parrots, Agapornis lovebirds, and the iconic African Greys.  The connection fostered between bird-keepers and captive birds can be profound, and can provide us with insights that cannot be achieved through field research.

Lillian’s Lovebird (photo credit: Dominique Schreckling)

We need to use this resource to the birds’ advantage and draw on the keepers’ passion for these animals to stimulate positive change for wild populations of African parrots. Bird-keepers and aviculturalists must realize the important role they can play in the conservation and research of the forest icons.  I would like to call upon global birdkeepers to join World Parrot Trust Africa and become part of this constructive movement towards a future that holds healthy African parrot populations in the wild, attained with the support of a well-managed captive community of feathered ambassadors around the globe.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

We, on the African continent and around the world, are the proud custodians of a unique group of parrots native to the forests and savannas of this wild and primordial continent.  We must recognise our responsibilities as stewards of these “forest ambassadors”, and take action to ensure a bright future for them.  Please help World Parrot Trust Africa support them on this rapidly changing continent.

Photo credit: Cyril Laubscher

To join the World Parrot Trust Africa, and for more information on how you can get involved in or contribute to African parrot conservation projects (e.g. Cape Parrot Project), please contact me at: boyes@worldparrottrust.org or PO Box 149, Hogsback, 5721, South Africa.

 

Learn about Bush Warriors’ alliance with World Parrot Trust by clicking here.  Together we are on a mission to raise awareness about the plight of the world’s parrots, with goal of changing the future for these majestic creatures and preventing their extinction!

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Cape Parrot in Peril: Disease Could Bring Extinction for Africa’s Most Endangered Parrot

Posted in Birds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2010 by drsteveboyes

Many are aware of the plight of the African Grey parrots of central and western Africa, but few know about that of the continent’s most endangered parrot: the Cape Parrot of South Africa. Today, there are less than 1,000 of these gorgeous birds remaining in the wild, and they are classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the South African government.  This species is threatened by continued habitat loss, challenges to their reproductive ecology, disease, conflict with humans, and the illegal pet trade industry.

Photo credit: Rodnick Biljon

If Africa lost this green and gold ambassador of South Africa’s last-remaining Afromontane forest  patches, it would cause the destabilization of this delicate ecosystem. Other endemic organisms dependent on these forests would also be lost; species such as Samango monkeys, the Amathole toad, and a variety of chirping frogs.

Photo credit: Rodnick Biljon

The many threats to this bird are largely caused by humans and their activities.  The Cape Parrots’ forest habitat has been logged intensively for over 350 years.  Due to a lack of nesting cavities, which is a function of habitat loss, the Cape parrot population also suffers from poor nesting success.  They are often regarded as crop pests, resulting in their persecution when they are shot or caught in nets and clubbed to death.  The wild-caught bird trade places a high demand on this rare species, as well.  Eggs are frequently stolen from nests and adults are mist-netted to supply the black market. The physical health of ageing populations is also on the decline.  To date, there has been very little intervention on the part of law implementation and enforcement, and the Cape Parrot now flies closer and closer to extinction.  We must intercede immediately and stimulate positive change for this imperiled bird.

Photo credit: Rodnick Biljon

In 2009, the World Parrot Trust initiated the Cape Parrot Project in an effort to save this endemic species from extinction. Preliminary surveys indicated that the observed body condition of Cape Parrots in the southernmost part of their distribution had been declining for at least five years.  Soon, we received over 30 photographs of Cape Parrots with symptoms of advanced Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), a debilitating circovirus that attacks the immune system, beak, internal organs, and feathers of parrots globally.  Varieties of this PBFD are widespread and usually specific to small groups of parrots. It is particularly nasty in that it is airborne, spread by the shedding of feather dust. No known agent (e.g. alcohol or virucide) can kill this virus, making it a “doomsday virus” for endangered parrots around the world.

Cape Parrot with advanced symptoms of PBFD (photo credit: Rodnick Biljon)

The photos were sent to us by some concerned South Africans who, in the many years that they had been observing and photographing the birds feeding in their pecan trees, had never seen anything like this. The news was shocking and prompted us to investigate the nature of this emerging threat to the Cape Parrots’ future.

PBFD-positive Cape Parrot (photo credit: Rodnick Biljon)

Between March and July 2010, we finally had the opportunity to capture the birds at the pecan orchard where the photos had been taken. Within a week, we were able to collect blood and feather samples for disease testing. The results confirmed an alarming rate of PBFD infection among this feeding flock.  Over 50% of the samples tested positive for the disease.  All signs pointed to an outbreak. 

Collecting samples from the birds to test for PBFD (photo credit: Rodnick Biljon)

The individuals we captured were all in terrible condition with chronic weight loss, fleas, lesions on the beak, a lack of down feathers, and poor feather condition in general. To our heightening distress, we soon began to find carcasses under roost trees after the first two cold snaps of the season.  By July, this flock, which represented 30% of all wild Cape Parrots, had been reduced by nearly half (45%).  Concern mounted about the far-reaching impacts of this disease on the species as a whole, as we realized that 10-15% of the entire population had been lost in this incident alone.

Lesions on the beak caused by PBFD (photo credit: Rodnick Biljon)

Currently, we are working towards the development of a PBFD vaccine using the blood samples we’ve already collected.  Cape Parrot Project is also collaborating with international researchers in the study of this disease.  Next year, we plan to capture Cape Parrots at six additional locations in order to determine infection rates among these isolated subpopulations. We hope to find them thriving in absence of the disease. However, if similar infection rates are discovered next year, we will be forced to remove sick individuals from the wild for rehabilitation in a quarantine facility.  After recovery, they would then be returned to the wild in the spring.

Photo credit: Rodnick Biljon 

There is no doubt that long-standing and extensive logging has radically transformed the Afromontane Yellowwood forests that the Cape Parrots are vitally dependent on.  Our research indicates that, due to the significant changes and pressures endured by these precious forests, the birds’ habitat simply isn’t healthy enough to support them any longer.  This may have played a major role in the PBFD outbreak.  It’s also possible that the species is just not strong enough to fight off the debilitating nature of PBFD.  The disease has probably been present in the wild Cape Parrot population for a very long time, but at a significantly lesser prevalence.

Photo credit: Rodnick Biljon

Historically, these birds fed predominantly on yellowwood fruits, which are high in calcium and protein, low in fats, and have strong anti-microbial activity.  A lack of natural food resources has seen the species turning to pecan nuts, plum and cherry pits, pine nuts, acorns, apple seeds, Australian Acacia seeds, and other exotic foods.  The new resources they’ve come to rely on are either high in fat or sugar.  This diet could be compared to a person living off fast food and getting sick as a result.  The lack of nutrients could be contributing to the spread of PBFD.

Photo credit: Rodnick Biljon 

 What would cause a sudden increase in the pervasiveness of this airborne virus in the wild population?  Illegal traders regularly capture Cape Parrots and breed them to produce eggs that can be sold legally with the appropriate permits.  If these wild-caught specimens declined in condition as a result of poor diet and resultant PBFD infection, it’s possible that the traders might have released the animals back into the wild, thus spreading the disease.  It’s also conceivable that this species has been exposed to a new and more virulent strain of the PBFD virus.  Either way, it’s indisputable that humans have contributed to the current situation in some way.  It’s imperative that we do everything we can to secure a future for these birds in the wild.

Photo credit: Rodnick Biljon

Please join the Cape Parrot Project group on Facebook and invite your friends to join. Spread the word, share your unique insights in our discussions, and help us save Africa’s most endangered parrot. The Cape Parrot Project group on Facebook is now the largest parrot conservation group in social media, with over 4,500 members and hundreds of photos, videos, links, and posts. We look forward to seeing you in the group.

Photo credit: Rodnick Biljon

You can support the Cape Parrot Project by visiting their website here.  For more information on parrot conservation around the world, please contact me at boyes@worldparrottrust.org

Nearly one third of all parrot species are now threatened with extinction due to the illegal pet trade, habitat loss, and disease.  To read more about our alliance with the World Parrot Trust, in an effort to bring awareness to the plight of the world’s parrots, please click here.

 

Dr. Steve Boyes discusses the plight of Cape Parrots:

 

First-ever footage of a critically endangered Cape Parrot feeding in the high canopy of a yellowwood tree:

 

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