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Exposed: the fragile situation of the Tucumán Parrot

By David Waugh, Loro Parque Fundación

A wild Tucumán Parrot feeding on flowers of alder Alnus sp. © Luis Rivera

The wild population of the Tucumán Parrot (Amazona tucumana) is in a worse situation than previously thought, and it should be included in a higher category of threat, moving from “Near-threatened” to “Vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

This is a major recommendation resulting from a recent study of the population in Bolivia, and previously in Argentina, and recently published (Rivera et al. 2009*) by authors representing the National University of Córdoba in Argentina, Armonía (Birdlife partner) in Bolivia and the University of Maine in the USA.

The study was funded by the Loro Parque Fundación (LPF) and involved the survey of 18 sites during the non-breeding season in 2006 and 2007, in the southern Yungas mountains of south-eastern Bolivia.

The Tucumán Parrot is restricted to these Yungas mountains which extend south into north-western Argentina. In Bolivia the Yungas covers an area c. 530 km long and 70 km wide, and is considered a threatened eco-region in that country because of forest fragmentation and conversion to other land uses.

An increasingly rare view of good Yungas forest © Luis Rivera

Suitable breeding habitat (ie mature Podocarpus–Alnus forest) occurs only in a narrow zone in southern Bolivia, and is threatened by lack of regeneration because of burning to sustain extensive cattle grazing. This forest type is restricted to areas where fires normally do not enter, and it warrants a high conservation priority.

According to interviews with local people, in the 1980s 5,400 Tucumán Parrots were legally captured for the international pet trade before the species was listed in 1990 on CITES Appendix I. Apparently the species has not recovered to former levels in the trapping areas, where the last captures took place in 2001, when 200 parrots were illegally mist-netted and sold in Santa Cruz city. In 2005 the illegal pet trade monitoring programme conducted by Armonía, and funded by LPF, detected 42 individuals in captivity in Santa Cruz city.

The study in Bolivia recorded a total of 1,643 parrots, bringing the known total of Argentina and Bolivia to 7,650 individuals. It is likely that the present population size is lower than before 1980, when captures of Tucumán Parrots for the international pet trade reached an estimated peak of 20,000 from Argentina and 5,500 from Bolivia.

* [Luis Rivera, Raul Rojas Llanos, Natalia Politi, Bennett Hennessey and Enrique H. Bucher. (2009) The Near-threatened Tucumán Parrot (Amazona tucumana) in Bolivia: insights for a global assessment. Oryx, 44(1), 110–113]

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