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Wildlife Groups Test Parrot Deterrent on Cayman Islands

By admin

An endemic wild Grand Cayman Parrot, tempted into close proximity by near-starvation, after Hurricane Ivan, September 2004 © Courtney Platt

According to a report in the Caymanian Compass, a solution seems to have been found to the growing crisis of crop losses due to the Cayman Parrot’s love of mangoes.

Although it’s one of Cayman’s protected species and the country’s national bird, the Grand Cayman Parrot (Amazona leucocephala caymanensis) is perceived by local fruit farmers to be a pest.  They say that they’re losing up to half their mango crops to the birds, and maintain that they should be allowed to kill them.

Local conservationists, Cayman Wildlife Rescue and the National Trust, may, however, be able to use a device created by a Florida-based company, Bird Busters, to scare off the offending parrots. This device, known as a Bird Squawker, is in the process of being tested by these two groups and, thus far, it seems to be a success.

The Bird Squawker plays distress and alarm calls from Cayman Parrots, cries of predatory hawks, gun shots noises and digital sound effects in a random pattern which is intended to confuse and scare the offending birds.

The device has been tested in local farmland worked by Franklyn Smith, and worker, Eval Davis, believes it to be successful.  “When the device is running,” he says, “we have no new damage to the crop.  If the device is off, the parrots return to the area within a day.”

In years past, Franklin Smith has lost at least 50% of his crop to the Cayman Parrots, and he’s looking forward to acquiring a Bird Squawker in time for next year’s fruiting season.

Alison Corbett, Project Manager of Cayman Wildlife Rescue, is working to try and change the uneasy relationship that exists between the farmers and the parrots.

“In visiting local farmers here I have seen the true devastation the parrot has on the crop,” say says.  “These farmers work hard, battling many issues, and I hated that Cayman’s National Bird was considered by most to be a pest.  I knew there were solutions out there, we just needed to try some alternatives.”

She explained that while there is no concrete evidence that Cayman Parrots are still being shot by local farmers as a means of control, there is considerable hearsay and some have admitted to shooting the national bird despite its status as a protected species. “One local farmer attested to shooting 80 Cayman Parrots in one day alone, before deciding to put down his rifle for good. I have had other reports that there are still hundreds shot each year.  We can either deny this issue or choose to provide the farmers with effective and sustainable options.”

Young captive Cayman Brac Parrot © Courtney Platt

Otto Watler, long time advocate for the Cayman Parrot, who has also been working closely on the project, said it would be a sad day when the beautiful Cayman Islands’ Parrot ceases to grace the skies.  “I think everyone that lives on these beautiful islands should do their part to stop this awful tragedy from becoming a reality and it will surely happen sooner than later if some method of protecting the Parrot is not put in place by the powers that be.”

The Cayman Parrot faces many threats, such as loss of habitat, as well as the human threats of illegal shooting, trapping and nest robbing.  The Grand Cayman Parrot and Cayman Brac Parrot are two distinct endemic sub-species of the Cuban Parrot.  Both of the Cayman Islands’ Parrots are considered endangered and are CITES protected.  The Cayman Brac species, due to its limited range, is at particular risk of extinction.

See an interview with Alison Corbett on Daybreak TV

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