EL YUNQUE, Puerto Rico — Biologists try to avoid wasting the final of the endangered Puerto Rican parrots after greater than half the inhabitants of the brilliant inexperienced birds with turquoise-tipped wings disappeared when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and destroyed their habitat and meals sources.

Within the tropical forest of El Yunque, solely two of the 56 wild birds that when lived there survived the Class four storm that pummeled the US territory in September 2017. In the meantime, solely four of 31 wild birds in a forest within the western city of Maricao survived, together with 75 out of 134 wild parrots residing within the Rio Abajo forest within the central mountains of Puerto Rico, scientists mentioned.

And whereas a number of dozen new parrots have been born in captivity and within the wild since Maria, the species continues to be at risk, in keeping with scientists.

Puerto Rican parrots eat inside one of the rescue facilities.
Puerto Rican parrots eat inside one of many rescue services.AP

“Now we have quite a lot of work to do,” mentioned Gustavo Olivieri, parrot restoration program coordinator for Puerto Rico’s Division of Pure Assets.

Federal and native scientists will meet subsequent month to debate how greatest to revive a species that numbered greater than 1 million within the 1800s however dwindled to 13 birds throughout the 1970s after many years of forest clearing.

The US and Puerto Rican governments launched a program in 1972 that ultimately led to the creation of three breeding facilities. Simply weeks earlier than Maria hit, scientists reported 56 wild birds at El Yunque, the very best for the reason that program was launched.

However the inhabitants decline is now particularly worrisome as a result of the parrots that vanished from El Yunque had been a few of the final remaining wild ones, mentioned Marisel Lopez, who oversees the parrot restoration program at El Yunque for the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

“It was devastating. After so a few years of getting labored on this undertaking…,” she stopped speaking and sighed.

Animal sciences internship student Viviana Berdecia, left, and Jessica Ilse, forest biologist for the S. Forest Service, takes GPS coordinates inside the rescue facilities.
Animal sciences internship scholar Viviana Berdecia, left, and Jessica Ilse, forest biologist for the S. Forest Service, takes GPS coordinates contained in the rescue services.AP

The Puerto Rican Amazon is Puerto Rico’s solely remaining native parrot and is considered one of roughly 30 species of Amazon parrots discovered within the Americas. The red-foreheaded birds develop to almost a foot in size, are identified for his or her secrecy and normally mate for all times, reproducing annually.

Greater than 460 birds stay captive on the breeding facilities in El Yunque and Rio Abajo forests, however scientists haven’t launched any of them since Hurricane Maria. A 3rd breeding middle in a forest within the western rural city of Maricao has not operated for the reason that storm. Scientists at the moment are making an attempt to find out the easiest way to arrange the parrots for launch since there are such few birds within the wild they’ll work together with and whether or not Puerto Rico’s broken forests can maintain them.

One proposal scientists will take into account is whether or not to seize a few of the remaining wild parrots within the Rio Abajo forest and place them in the identical cage as birds that will likely be launched to the wild, to allow them to study to emulate their social conduct to make sure their survival, mentioned Jafet Velez, a wildlife biologist with US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Scientists are tentatively planning to launch 20 birds subsequent yr in Rio Abajo.

One other proposal is to launch extra parrots in Maricao, which was not as closely broken by Maria.

Biological science technician Iris Rodriguez feeds a trio of Puerto Rican parrots.
Organic science technician Iris Rodriguez feeds a trio of Puerto Rican parrots.AP

“Our precedence now isn’t copy…it’s to begin releasing them,” Lopez mentioned, including that breeding facilities can maintain solely so many parrots.

However first, scientists want to verify the forests can provide meals and protected shelter.

Jessica Ilse, a forest biologist at el Yunque for the US Forest Service, mentioned scientists are accumulating knowledge concerning the quantity of fruit falling from timber and the variety of leaves shed. She mentioned the cover nonetheless has not grown again since Maria and warned that invasive species have taken root since extra daylight now shines by. Ilse mentioned that lots of the giant timber the place parrots used to nest at the moment are gone and famous that it took 14 months for El Yunque’s cover to shut after Hurricane Hugo hit Puerto Rico in 1989 as a Class three storm.

Scientists additionally at the moment are accumulating new knowledge on the variety of predators at El Yunque, together with el guaraguao, a red-tailed hawk that hunts Puerto Rico parrots. With out a cover and correct camouflage, wild parrots have turn into a straightforward goal.

Ilse mentioned native and federal scientists plan to assist the forest get better by planting. By the top of November, they anticipate to have a map detailing probably the most broken areas in El Yunque and a listing of tree species they’ll plant which might be extra immune to hurricanes.

Puerto Rican parrots.

“Folks preserve asking us, ‘How lengthy is it going to take?’” Ilse mentioned.

However scientists don’t know, she added.

“The harm is extra intensive than (hurricanes) Hugo and Georges…It’s been an entire change to the ecosystem.”

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