Native parrots of Luzon, Philippines

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Searching for native parrots in Luzon, the main northern island of the Philippines, is definitely no picnic. The person who can most attest to this is Dr. Carmela Española, a feisty Philippine field researcher from the University of the Philippines who has been leading a project over the last three years to accumulate information vital for the conservation of these parrots. This project, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, has been funded by the Loro Parque Fundación and includes other forest birds important for the dispersal of fruit, notably pigeons and hornbills. Carmela’s results predict a long-term collapse of fruit-eating bird communities across Luzon if appropriate safe-guards are not put in place. As a speaker at the VIII. International Parrot Convention in September 2014, Carmela will give a presentation about the worrying situation.

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IMATA Award

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The International Marine Animal Trainer Association awards the innovations developed by Loro Parque’s Trainers to cope with the hearing impairment of Morgan.

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Silvia recovers her sight

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Silvia is a 41-year-old female chimpanzee that i sable to rediscover the world after a cataract operation. In this operation the same surgical techniques as in humans were used. Now she can share her experiences as a “grandmother” with the three females and their youngs, as well as with the male with which she could still propagate herself.

The chimpanzee changed her bahaviour “overnight” since she hardly was able to see more than shades in a distance of not more than ten centimeters. Now she carefully looks at the details in the zoo keeper´s faces which she “scans” from top to bottom, confirms Juan Vicente Martínez, the chief of zoo keepers and curator of terrestral mammals in Loro Parque.

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The “very calm and kind” Silvia was the first mammal that came to this zoo in Tenerife which opened its doors with only one parrot colllection. She was saved from her hard life which she had t olive for years. She was chained up with a collar and was used by a street photographer to make pictures of tourists with her.

She took the opportunity to finally fell “like a real chimpanzee” and got a companion with which she procreated many youngs. She cast her last young 18 years ago and before that she had twins, which is very uncommon for this species even in the wild.

But chimpanzees do only have a life expectancy of 50 years and Silvia with her 41 years already is old and had lost her sight almost completely as a result of a cataract. Even though she continued playing and still was in good mood, she had to move slowly and tentatively towards the glasses of juice, which the keepers brought to the chimpanzees, since she could not take it at the first attempt.

Then it was decided to give her back her quality of life and with the help of experts from the United Kingdom and Italy – together with a group of veterinarians – it was agreed on the operation of the female chimpanzee in which the cataract was removed and which did note ven last half an hour.

It was exactly the same operation which is performed in a human who, after all, has 98.7% of its physical characteristics with a chimpanzee in common. Silvia woke up from the anesthesia in a room which was prepared like a “nest”. It contained palm leaves and music for babies was played while her keeper held her hand and spoke calmly to her.

In the moment which she opened her eyes she could already see and now, two weeks after, she has recovered completely: she does not even need medicine any more.

It is likely that she can already be united with her family, which consists of an adult male, three other females and three youngs, this week. She will be the grandmother and show the rest of the chimpanzees how to care for the youngs since this is her speciality.

She could become mother again since she still is fertile. This was not possible in the past years because she lived together with a male with which she was not “compatible”. They were not interested in each other, explains Juan Vicente Martínez.

It is the perfect way to spend one´s remaining years for an animal which had many hardships in iths life and now is healthy and able to see again. “She discovers the world which she was not able to see for many years”, says the responsable of the keepers.

In fact, she now is “spoiled” with hapiness “because she deserves it” and the keepers are very happy to see that she had slept through the operation and suddenly – after she awoke – she was able to see. Something, that Silvia is not able to understand. silvia An example for the extent change of the change in her life is the fact that now she is “finally” able to watch movies and documentaries on nature on the flat screen TV which the chimpanzees in Loro Parque have.

But before going to bed, the chimpanzees listen to classical music “which they like” and “to which they listen to, like a lullaby”, because, as soon as they hear the music, they take the young´s hands and all together in the bedroom to end the day.

Wilhelm-Pfeiffer Medal

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The president of Loro Parque, Wolfgang kiessling, recieved the Gold Medal “Wilhelm- Pfeiffer” granted by the Justus-Liebig University of Giessen in Germany for the contribution of the Loro Parque towards the research and training of over 500 veterinary students, who have been able to perform practical studies in the clinic and parrot breeding centre, the largest and most diverse reserve in the world.

This house of higher learning recognizes, with this award, those organizations and individuals who support the development and progress in the scientific field of veterinary medicine. In the case of the loro Parque, for over 30 years, doctorate students and undergraduates of avian medicine from the German University have performed hundreds of practical internships, as well as important investigations linked to artificial insemination of parrots, and have obtained results which aid in stopping the extinction of the most endangered species of psittacidae.

The Gold Medal “Wilhelm-Pfeiffer” appreciates the commitment of Loro Parque Foundation to the protection of species and their habitats, since the creation of this non-profit organization in 1994, 14 million dollars have been invested in 96 projects to conserve species of parrots and cetaceans throughout all 5 continents. As a result of extensive conservation efforts, Loro Parque Foundation has managed to reduce the level of threat of extinction of two species of parrots, the Yellow-eared Parrot of Colombia and Lear’s Macaw in Brazil.

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Miss Russia 2013

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Miss Russia 2013 candidates visited us while in their promotional stay in Tenerife.

Good news for the Philippine Cockatoo

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In April we told you about the dangers that the Philippine Cockatoo was facing. Today we write this to share the good news: the local government is against the construction of the power plant that would put this critically endangered animal under heavy risk.

In a major development to protect the critically endangered Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) from potential catastrophe, on June 11th the legislature of the Municipality of Narra officially declared its opposition (Resolution 2013-1935) to the construction of a coal-fired power-plant within its district of Panacan. The DMCI Power Corporation has declared its intention to construct the power-plant only one kilometre away from the Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary, which holds 25% of the world’s population of approximately 1,000 birds of this endemic Philippine species.

Since the end of the 1990’s, the Rasa population has increased ten-fold due to the conservation programme run by the Philippine-based Katala Foundation and local communities, with support from the Loro Parque Fundación of Spain, Chester Zoo, UK, CEPA (Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales) and Asociación Beauval de Conservation et Recherche, France and ZGAP (Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations), Germany.

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The Narra Municipality Resolution recognises the negative direct and indirect effects of a coal-fired power plant on the survival of the Philippine Cockatoo, and cites other potential problems including harm to health. It concludes that the measures the government has already invested in environmental protection in the region far outweigh the purported economic benefits and opportunities related to a coal-fired power plant.

Furthermore, the Resolution castigates the DMCI Power Corporation for its negligence in observing the procedures required for such a development. Specifically, the DMCI representatives have not been able to extensively discuss, present of even provide copy of the Initial Environment Examination Report, nor concrete mitigating measures for environmental and health impacts. The Resolution notes that the Local Government Code of 1991 tasks the Municipality of Narra to enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology.

Conserva­tion Programme – Philippine Cockatoo

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Formerly found throughout the Philippine archipelago, the endemic Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) is close to extinction due to large-scale habitat loss and intense poaching activities. There are estimated to be a maximum of 1,245 individuals, but could well be less than 1,000, with the largest remaining populations today found on Palawan and adjacent smaller islands. a

The long-term goal of the Philippine Cockatoo Conserva­tion Programme (PCCP) is the down-listing of the species from ‘Critically Endangered’, and the main strategy of the programme is to conserve in-situ its remaining viable subpopulations. This is through technical conservation measures, like nest protection, and through active participation and understanding of the local population, especially local decision-makers. Warden schemes remain the single-most important tool to assure the short-term survival and recovery of the species, whereas lobbying, conservation education, habitat restoration and reintroduction, as well as provision of alternative livelihood options are important for the long-term improvement of the conditions for cockatoo conservation in the Philippines.

For 14 years the Loro Parque Fundación has been supporting the Philippine NGO, the Katala Foundation, with a total of US$1.365.168 to run the PCCP. It has done this in partnership with Chester Zoo, the Zoological Society for the Preservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP), Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales (CEPA) and Association Beauval Conservation & Recherche.

Due to the success of this project, the overall population may now be slowly increasing. Between 1999 and 2003, the activities of the PCCP focused on the small offshore island of Rasa and the nearby mainland community of Narra in eastern Palawan. A community-based wardening scheme on Rasa Island, which has the densest cockatoo population known to remain, ensures that no nests are poached. The project has initiated a slow withdrawal to transfer responsibility to a local conservation group. The other important locations in Palawan where the PCCP has been working for some years are the island of Dumaran, the Culasian Managed Resource Protected Area in the district of Rizal, and the islands of Pandanan, at the southern tip of Palawan in the district of Balabac.

Helping the Blue-throated Macaw

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Conservation Project of May

The beautiful Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis) is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the Red List of Threatened Species of the IUCN. Continuously since 1995 the LPF has maintained a partnership with the Bolivian NGO, Armonía, to save this macaw, found only in the department of Beni in north­ern Bolivia. Even though individuals of the Blue-throated Macaw had been coming into captivity through trade in the 1979s and 1980s, the geographical location of the species in the wild was only scientifically described in 1992.

The species in the wild was immediately diagnosed as very threatened, with a tiny population and restricted range, and with habitat destruction and disturbance, potential illegal pet trade and hunting for feathers as the main threats. The species presents a conserva­tion challenge, because it is very sparsely distributed over a large territory of lowland, grassy plains which are seasonally flooded each year. Interspersed in these plains are ‘palm islands’, slightly raised areas on which forest can grow, dominated by the Motacú palm (Attalea phalerata), which is important for feeding and nesting of the macaw.

Each year the project has undertaken surveys to locate this species over the vast plains of “Llanos de Moxos”, extending westwards the known distribution of the species from the population east of the Rio Mamore. As recently as the year 2000, the lowest estimate of the wild population was of only 36 birds, but as a result of our project, by 2013 it had increased to 350, possibly more. In 2007, at a poorly accessible site of ten cattle ranches west of Santa Ana, the project team found the highest density of Blue-throated Macaws ever recorded. Two ranches (each about 3,000 ha) shared a roost of 70 Blue-throated Macaws, with other ranches holding flocks of 12-17 individuals. This discovery led Armonía to acquire to 5,500 ha land which is now the Barba Azul Nature Reserve. It is currently in the process of expansion to 11,000 ha. The protection of the species in the reserve can be secured, and the project can undertake aspects of research and conservation that were not possible on other private lands.

Ara glaucogularis Project Summary File_Jan2013

Helping an endangered migratory bird: the Swift Parrot

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International Migratory Bird Day 2013 occurs on the weekend of 11th and 12th of May, and to contribute to this important event the Loro Parque Fundación is supporting a project to help the world’s most migratory psittacine, the Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor).

An adult Swift parrot on average weighs 75g, a little more than two typical-sized letters. Nevertheless, some individuals travel up to 5,000 kilometres between their breeding sites in Tasmania and their wintering grounds in mainland south-east Australia. Unfortunately the Swift Parrot is now an endangered species, with a total population of 1,500-4,000 individuals. Like so many other parrot species, the main threat to the Swift Parrot is habitat loss, fragmentation and alteration, which is taking place both within breeding and wintering habitats.

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Dejan Stojanovic photograph.

To obtain essential information for the effective conservation of this endangered species, the project is researching its breeding biology and migratory behaviour. The project has several objectives, including to document the parrot’s biology and ecology in relation to land management practices, especially forestry. It is being carried out by Prof. Robert Heinsohn of the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, and his team-members, Dr Debra Saunders and Dejan Stojanovic. In addition to the project being financially supported by the Loro Parque Fundación and the Australian Research Council, contributions to the project in various forms are coming from Sydney and Charles Sturt Universities, CSIRO Ecosystems Sciences, Bush Heritage Australia, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industry, Waters and Environment, the Royal Zoological Society of South Australia, Inc, and the Forest Practices Authority.

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Dejan Stojanovic photograph.

The researchers have found that all Swift Parrot nests are located in tree-cavities with very specific characteristics, and that they are very vulnerable to an arboreal mammal that was introduced to Tasmania. A later important phase of the project will be to track the parrots remotely over long distances to discover how they locate food sources and other resources. The tracking will use highly innovative technology, never before used in this way.

Conserva­tion Programme – Philippine Cockatoo

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Formerly found throughout the Philippine archipelago, the endemic Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) is close to extinction due to large-scale habitat loss and intense poaching activities. There are estimated to be a maximum of 1,245 individuals, but could well be less than 1,000, with the largest remaining populations today found on Palawan and adjacent smaller islands. a

The long-term goal of the Philippine Cockatoo Conserva­tion Programme (PCCP) is the down-listing of the species from ‘Critically Endangered’, and the main strategy of the programme is to conserve in-situ its remaining viable subpopulations. This is through technical conservation measures, like nest protection, and through active participation and understanding of the local population, especially local decision-makers. Warden schemes remain the single-most important tool to assure the short-term survival and recovery of the species, whereas lobbying, conservation education, habitat restoration and reintroduction, as well as provision of alternative livelihood options are important for the long-term improvement of the conditions for cockatoo conservation in the Philippines.

For 14 years the Loro Parque Fundación has been supporting the Philippine NGO, the Katala Foundation, with a total of US$1.365.168 to run the PCCP. It has done this in partnership with Chester Zoo, the Zoological Society for the Preservation of Species and Populations (ZGAP), Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales (CEPA) and Association Beauval Conservation & Recherche.

Due to the success of this project, the overall population may now be slowly increasing. Between 1999 and 2003, the activities of the PCCP focused on the small offshore island of Rasa and the nearby mainland community of Narra in eastern Palawan. A community-based wardening scheme on Rasa Island, which has the densest cockatoo population known to remain, ensures that no nests are poached. The project has initiated a slow withdrawal to transfer responsibility to a local conservation group. The other important locations in Palawan where the PCCP has been working for some years are the island of Dumaran, the Culasian Managed Resource Protected Area in the district of Rizal, and the islands of Pandanan, at the southern tip of Palawan in the district of Balabac.