|Campaigner Bibiana Sucre - cautiously optimistic about the future|
IT is impossible not to admire the heroism of individuals who strive to ensure a future for threatened birds - often with few resources and in the face of sometimes violent opposition.
One such is Bibiana Sucre, who is one of a group of campaigners battling on the Caribbean Margarita Island, 40km north of the Venezuela mainland, to halt the decline of the yellow-shouldered parrot.
Once common, this species' population has plummeted - largely because swathes of its dry forest habitat have been lost to sand extraction for the construction industry.
But there is another factor - parrots are popular pets in Venezuela, and many birds are snatched from the nest hen they are chicks.
Some are sold cheaply on local market stalls, but others are thought to be trafficked by dealers for far higher prices to outlets either Europe or the USA.
In an absorbing illustrated presentation, Bibiana praised the vigilance and courage of a team of fieldworkers which has been set up both to monitor numbers and to combat the activities of poachers who are sometimes armed and dangerous.
During their work, the workers also repair parrot nests which are often damaged by the carelesness of the poachers’ methods.
Meanwhile, villagers are also being encouraged - with token payment - to help restore degraded environment by planting and watering trees once the mineral firms have moved on.
It is a slow process, not helped by the scarcity of water in a country bedevilled by economic and political problems, but progress is being made.
Where sapling have subsequently gone on to reach maturity, yellow-shouldereds have returned to feed on their seeds.
Bibiana is herself working to change community attituitudes, especially in schools.
Keeping parrots as pets is being discouraged in favour of taking pride in seeing them fly free.
There is even now an annual parrot festival where youngsters dress up as parrots.
With precious support from the World Land Trust, the campaign is showing early signs of success but the road ahead will be long and winding.
A captive-breeding programme may be an option for the future, but only if sufficient resources, knowledge and government backing are forthcoming.
"A lot of struggles lie ahead, but we have to be positive, resolute and determined,”insists Bibiana.
Like this bird, the yellow-shouldered parrot risks being taken from the wild
(Photo: John Backstrand/Flickr/WikimedaCommons)