Bonaire has a threatened dry forest ecosystem that is suffering from habitat degradation and loss. The degradation has been caused by the introduction of invasive herbivores; historic deforestation; and, more recently, widespread development to support a growing human population. The introduced invasive herbivores, plant-eating animals such as goats, donkeys, sheep and pigs are still on the island and their numbers have increased. This degradation and deforestation negatively impacts the native flora and fauna on the island.
Bonaire’s dry forests are home to endangered plants, including two Guaiacum species, and birds such as the Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot, as well as several island endemics. Because the Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots (IUCN status: vulnerable since 1994) have lost their habitat for nesting, roosting and feeding, they are being forced to forage for food in urban areas, which can lead to conflict with local fruit growers.
Echo is a small non-profit foundation that was started in 2010 on Bonaire. Its mission is to safeguard the future of the Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot (Amazona barbadensis). This parrot is only found on Bonaire, in the northern part of Venezuela and two islands off the coast of Venezuela: Isla Margerita and Isla Blanquilla. Globally there are only around 7500 Yellow-shouldered Amazons remaining. The biggest threat to maintaining a healthy and growing population of these parrots is the lack of a suitable habitat; and Bonaire is no exception.
Thanks to funding from Openbaar Lichaam Bonaire, Echo started a large-scale reforestation project with the goal of protecting 10 ‘exclusion areas’ on public land. Each area will measure approximately one-hectare and all exotic herbivores (goats, donkeys and pigs) will be excluded. The exclusion areas will then be reforested with as many as 20,000 native trees in total. The goal of this project is to help restore Bonaire’s threatened and degraded dry forest to provide a suitable habitat for the native wildlife, including the Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots, which serve as an indicator species of forest ‘health.’
Every Wednesday at 4:30pm Echo provides a conservation tour at our Conservation Centre in Rincón, to learn more, please visit: http://www.echobonaire.org/visit/parrot-tours/