Site icon Conservation news

Critically endangered bird gets new addition to its reserve

A pale-headed brush-finch (Altapetes pallidiceps).

A pale-headed brush-finch (Altapetes pallidiceps)., one of the most endangered birds in the world.

An unassuming brown bird, tiny both in body and population size, hovers on the edge of extinction as much of its habitat has been cleared for agriculture and its nests are parasitized by cowbirds. In response, conservation organizations created a reserve expressly for the species’ preservation in the late 1990s; now that reserve is being expanded to try to push one of the world’s most endangered bird species farther back from the precipice.

The pale-headed brush-finch (Altapetes pallidiceps) disappeared for 30 years. But intensive surveys in 1998 turned up a few breeding pairs in southern Ecuador’s Yunguilla Valley, initiating a race to save those that remained. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC), in collaboration with Fundación Jocotoco, an Ecuadorian conservation organization, worked to establish the Yunguilla Reserve to protect the brush-finch’s habitat – which totals just half a square mile in size (one square kilometer).

Creation of the reserve allowed conservationists to better fend off human encroachment and manage habitat. The Yungilla Valley is particularly affected by agriculture, with natural vegetation felled to make room for crops and pasture, according to ABC. Scientists also blame another bird species, the shiny cowbird, for taking a toll on brush-finches. The cowbird is a brood parasite, laying its eggs in other birds’ nests. Baby cowbirds grow larger and faster than the nesting birds’ real offspring, outcompeting them for food the parents bring back. Conservationists both eradicated cowbirds in Yunguilla Reserve, and banned agricultural activities.

Once, pale-headed brush-finches (Altapetes pallidiceps) could be found in forested edges of valleys throughout southern Ecuador’s mountains. But now, all live in just one small area of forest in the Yungilla Valley. Global Forest Watch shows relatively sparse forest cover in the region, with approximately 1,000 hectares of tree cover lost just from 2001 through 2012. Click to enlarge.

The efforts were a success. From just a handful of birds in the late 1990s, the known population has grown to between 200 and 250 individuals as of 2009. However, the IUCN still lists it as Critically Endangered.

“Jocotoco’s effort to save the Pale-headed Brush-finch is a wonderful example of how successful wildlife conservation can be achieved with expert knowledge and dedication,” said Christine Hodgdon, International Conservation Manager for Rainforest Trust. “Rainforest Trust is excited to continue supporting this invaluable project as it continues to expand and develop.”

Now, the problem seems to be space. A study conducted in 2009 found that the reserve may be at its brush-finch saturation point, meaning there may not be enough resources to allow the population to keep growing. Also, with all the world’s pale-headed brush-finches living in one small area, the species is very vulnerable to external threats. According to ABC, the reserve and its birds already been affected by fires that spread from neighboring agricultural land.

In response, ABC, Fundación Jocotoco, and Rainforest Trust recently purchased 104 acres of land to provide more potential habitat for the brush finches. The new purchase will act as a “satellite area” two miles from the reserve proper.

To conservationists, this may not just be a success story for the pale-headed brush-finch, but a possible protection strategy for other highly threatened, localized species around the world.

“ABC is particularly invested in this species, having financed the expedition that rediscovered the bird in addition to providing early support to build the reserve,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of ABC. “This species is of global significance given that the entire remaining population persists in one location. This project demonstrates that protection of small populations restricted to single remaining sites can be an effective way to halt species extinction. With the addition of this new habitat, we expect the continued improvement of this species’ conservation status and prospects for its long-term survival,” he added.



Related articles

Mining activist released after being charged with terrorism, rebellion in Ecuador

(02/11/2015) Yesterday, mining and environmental activist, Javier Ramírez, walked out of an Ecuadorian courtroom with his freedom. Ramírez, who has long fought against a massive state-owned massive copper mine in the cloud forest village of Junin, was arrested in April last year and subsequently charged with rebellion, sabotage, and terrorism among other thing.

The Amazon’s oil boom: concessions cover a Chile-sized bloc of rainforest

(02/04/2015) Hungry for oil revenue, governments and fossil fuel companies are moving even further into one of the world’s last great wildernesses, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The total area set aside for oil and gas in the Western Amazon has grown by 150,000 square kilometers since 2008, now totaling more than 730,000 square kilometers—an area the size of Chile.

Scientists rediscover endangered Andean toad in Ecuador

(01/30/2015) In 1970 researchers uncovered the Tandayapa Andean toad, previously unknown to science, in the Pichincha Province of Ecuador. Given that only a single individual was discovered, even after further exploration in the following years, the toad was soon presumed to be extinct. Forty-two years later, however, a research team rediscovered the species in Manduriacu, Ecuador.

Financial pledges for REDD+ slow to be disbursed, finds report

(01/27/2015) Only a small fraction of the $7.3 billion pledged under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program has actually been disbursed, find a new report that tracked REDD+ finance in seven countries. The report, published by Forest Trends, analyzed REDD+ financial flows between 2009 and 2012 in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania and Vietnam

Amazon tribe attacks oilfield in Ecuador

(01/15/2015) Indigenous leaders are calling for the release of six tribesmen implicated in a raid on an oilfield in Eastern Ecuador that left six soldiers injured, reports Andina and El Comercio.

Rainforests: 10 things to watch in 2015

(01/02/2015) 2014 was a landmark year for tropical rainforests, with dozens of major companies committing to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, the launch of new platforms for monitoring forests, and sharp drop in clearing in the Brazilian Amazon, among other big developments. Here’s a quick look ahead at what might be in store for tropical forests in 2015.

2014: the year in rainforests

(12/30/2014) 2014 could be classified as ‘The Year of the Zero Deforestation Commitment’. During 2014, nearly two dozen major companies, ranging from palm oil producers to fast food chains to toothpaste makers, established policies to exclude palm oil sourced at the expense of rainforests and peatlands.

Ecuador sends aid money back to Germany over planned rainforest visit

(12/23/2014) A visit to a rainforest slated for oil drilling has blown up into a diplomatic row between Ecuador and Germany. Ecuador has said it will no longer partner with Germany on environmental issues and will return aid money, after the South American government discovered that German legislators were attempting to visit the much-embattled Yasuni National Park.

Indigenous leader murdered before he could attend Climate Summit

(12/08/2014) Days before José Isidro Tendetza Antún was supposed to travel to the UN Climate Summit in Lima to publicly file a complaint against a massive mining operation, he went missing. Now, the Guardian reports that the body of the Shuar indigenous leader has been found, bound and buried in an unmarked grave on the banks of the Zamora River.

Exit mobile version