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Problems facing the Cape Parrot


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Last month I visited Hogsback to see the Cape Parrot and learn a bit about the problems they are facing. I met with Steve Boyes who is doing research on these forest specialists.


The Cape Parrot is South Africas only endemic parrot and its numbers are down well below a thousand. Populations exist in fragmented groups in forest habitat. The strongest population is in Hogsback. The problems that they are facing is habitat destruction, persecution by farmers, capture for the pet trade, and now disease. Habitat destruction started when the settlers started to cut hardwood trees for railway sleepers and furniture (particularly the yellow woods). These parrots depend on the yellow woods for nesting sites and for food.


more info on the cape parrot


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.
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Thanks Dikdik, I have joined their Facebook page (at your invitation) but am still unsure how someone living so far away can help. It is frustrating that these smaller species are just not considered important when the international conservation community is concerned.

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I think the story sums up the problems that all wildlife has in dealing with mans exploitation of the environment. The first animals to suffer are the specialists - like frogs. It seems the same problems surface all the time. Habitat destruction, pet trade, conflict with farmers, population isolation and now disease.


Captive breeding may be an option, but there is little hope there as scientists will not allow captive bred parrots to be released due to disease fears. Captive bred parrots are worth a fortune, and by the fact that they are scarce, they fetch high prices in the illegal pet trade. The solution lies in building breeding boxes and planing fast growing fruiting plants to make up for the loss natural food sources. The disease seems incurable - in the wild, and infected parrots don't make it through the winter.


I think the big thing here is to enlighten people. So that we can remind people who have African Hardwood and yellow-wood furniture that harvesting any tree that lives for 300 years is not sustainable. We will never replace those trees in our lifetimes. If you have such wood in your house - the very least you can do is apologize by donating some money to the Cape Parrot Project.

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