POPULATION SAVED FOR THE LONG-TERM?
Only a few years ago, the St. Lucia Amazon, endemic to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, ranked among the rarest birds in the world. Illegal trade and natural disasters forced the species to the brink of extinction. It is thanks largely to the dedicated and persistent efforts made by the Government of St. Lucia and a few supporters, that the species is considered stable today.
ACTP is an official partner of the Government of St. Lucia and supports required protection and breeding measures to guarantee the long-term survival of the species.
Our conservation partnership in Saint Lucia is currently making great progress, with the construction of the visionary and groundbreaking Wildlife Conservation and Education Centre (WCEC) rapidly moving towards completion.
Our focus now moves onto preparing the team that will run the facility and take care of the wildlife. Additionally guides are also being trained at present, these guides will show the guests around the WCEC and educate them on the native flora and fauna along with the conservation projects being administered. This is an outstanding and historic project, nothing the like of which has ever been delivered in the Caribbean region before! Visitors will be able enjoy and learn about the local wildlife, without disturbing the animals in their natural environment. They’ll also have the pleasure of a full rainforest experience without having to venture miles from their hotel. It will provide a wonderful chance to easily see the impressive vegetation and several of the island’s endemic animal species, especially for visitors who cannot partake in a hiking tour.
At the end of their visit people will be able to take a part of their adventure home, by buying a locally made souvenir at the gift shop. And at the same time they will be assisting in the protection of Saint Lucia’s wildlife, because 100% of the profits generated by the WCEC will be used for conservation on the island!
The St. Lucia Amazon Amazona versicolor, endemic to the small island of St. Lucia, has experienced a remarkable comeback in the past 30 years. In the mid-1970’s, the wild population of this large and beautiful amazon parrot decreased to around 100 birds, due to both illegal trade and destruction of the natural habitat. As a consequence the species was ranked as highly endangered and drew the attention of international wildlife protection efforts.
PREVIOUS PROTECTION MEASURES AND THEIR SUCCESS
The introduction of protection measures for the remaining rainforest areas on St. Lucia and the implementation of laws prohibiting local and international trade soon showed increasing success. Since then, the population of the St. Lucia Amazon has risen consistently and recovered very well. A national census, financed by ACTP in 2009, revealed a population size of around 1,750 to 2,250 birds.
POPULATION ALREADY SAVED FOR THE LONG-TERM?
Nevertheless, the limitation of a species to such a small area pressured by a growing population and frequently occurring natural disasters, does not give reason to consider the survival of the St. Lucia Amazon as permanently secured. The Government of St. Lucia and ACTP are well aware that natural disasters in particular can put the population of the St. Lucia Amazon rapidly under pressure once again.
Because the population of the St. Lucia Amazon is currently considered as being relatively stable, the attention of conservationists both in St. Lucia and at ACTP is focused on the long-term survival of the species in the wild. For this reason, the Government of St. Lucia and ACTP agreed on a joint approach for the sustainable and long-term survival of the species.
The collaboration between St. Lucia and ACTP includes a broad range of protection and wildlife conservation measures. A major part of the collaboration comprises an innovative wildlife protection concept, in which animals will contribute to their own protection in the long run. Under the slogan “Can wildlife pay for itself”, new and innovative strategies are being explored and implemented, ensuring the generation of funds to cover wildlife protection measures for the long-term.
Specifically, the collaboration between St. Lucia and ACTP consists of the following measures:
- Comprehensive population counts:
In 2009, a detailed census of the wild population of St. Lucia Amazons was conducted, in order to accurately determine the status of the species. The figures obtained form the basis for population counts in the future, giving the possibility to identify trends at early stages. ACTP supported the census through the provision of substantial financial resources.
- Equipment for the Forestry Department:
In order to conduct population counts, ACTP donated essential technical equipment. Among other things, GPS-devices, four-wheel drive vehicles and laptops were purchased and donated to the Forestry Department.
- Education of Forestry staff through training:
The collaboration between St. Lucia and ACTP also includes the training of employees of the Forestry Department in the area of wildlife protection. ACTP was able to finance several education measures for Forestry staff.
- Reconstruction projects after the catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Tomas:
In 2010, Hurricane Tomas hit the island of St. Lucia with full force and became one of the most severe natural disasters to impact the island since 1980. Damages and losses for various economic sectors amounted to approx. US $463.4 million. Large parts of St. Lucia’s economy were paralysed and a high percentage of the rainforest, the habitat of the St. Lucia Amazon, was destroyed. ACTP supported reconstruction and recovery efforts through a donation of €100,000.
Furthermore, the collaboration between the Government of St. Lucia and ACTP includes the construction of the aforementioned regional flagship Wildlife Conservation and Education Centre (WCEC) on the island, the building of which commenced in March 2018 and is currently nearing completion. The objective of the WCEC is to educate and to raise the awareness of the local population, as well as tourists, of the environmental and wildlife protection measures being undertaken. As previously mentioned, all profits derived from the operation of the WCEC will go directly to help fund these protection measures.
These protection measures will also benefit other bird and animal species on the island. Including species that are currently even more endangered than the St. Lucia Amazon.
ACTP BREEDING PROGRAM
In 2010, the Government of St. Lucia and ACTP signed a joint breeding loan agreement for the St. Lucia Amazon. Based on this agreement, all parrots already located in Europe were transferred to the breeding facilities of ACTP. Furthermore, birds from breeding facilities in St. Lucia where transferred to Germany.
The primary objective of the breeding program is the development of a safety net population in case of natural disasters. A genetically stable safety net population is intended to act as insurance for the worst-case scenarios.
Inline with the above, a new Breeding Loan Agreement was recently signed by all parties involved. The renewal of this agreement is recognition from both sides of the success achieved so far and also the mutual commitment to continue the cooperation well into to future.