Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Earth Today | BirdsCaribbean delivers stinging rebuke of Dominica over relocation of rare birds

Published:Thursday | April 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor/Contributing Editor
Rescued and rehabilitated Imperial Parrot (Sisserou) on the right; 18-year-old Sisserou female on the left. Also a rescue (having fallen from the nest), this female successfully reproduced in captivity in 2010.

DOMINICA HAS come in for sharp criticism from BirdsCaribbean, a regional entity committed to the conservation of birds for more than three decades, over its decision to relocate a number of its rare species to Germany.

The island reportedly exported two Sisserous and 10 Jacos to Germany for captive breeding at the facilities of the Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP), following the extreme hurricanes of last year that affected the Caribbean.

"Despite the confidence of local and international experts, who have been working in Dominica with the parrots since 1981, that on-island efforts to support the recovery of local populations would be successful, some politically appointed individuals within the Government of Dominica apparently decided to facilitate the export of these parrots as an 'emergency measure' to support the establishment of a captive breeding population in Germany by the ACTP," BirdsCaribbean said in a statement posted to its website.

"While there is no doubt that disastrous events like hurricanes pose a serious threat to the persistence of endangered species, there is evidence that both species are resilient and recovery in the wild is possible. Dominica's parrot populations were greatly affected but recovered after Hurricane David in 1979," the entity insisted.

"Their survival has been aided by multiple conservation measures taken in Dominica, including parks and protective legislation, community outreach and education events, programmes to reduce agricultural conflicts, complemented by research and monitoring," BirdsCaribbean maintained.

 

DEFENCE

 

Dominica's permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Reginald Thomas, has, however, stuck by the decision, insisting it had been the best course of action, and had been undertaken legally.

"There is no forest cover for the birds at present. We could not, in all moral and ethical judgement, allow the birds to remain in that state, hoping that they will survive. We have an obligation to mankind to protect the species that we have been given dominion over and make the best decisions that succeeding generations can benefit from them," Dominica News Online quoted him as saying.

"We are at the point of extinction of our Mountain Chicken with no other population anywhere for repopulation. We were forced to change our National Dish to accommodate the decline in the species and if they really go out completely, then we may have to consider removing it from the Coat of Arms. This is what we are faced with, with the national bird if it goes into extinction," Thomas added.

On the legalities involved, he reportedly said: "On Saturday, March 17, 2018, 12 birds - 10 Jacos and two Sisserous - were exported legally to Germany via St Lucia. Arrangements were made with the German Authorities, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, the CITIES Management Authority to get the required documents to allow the safe transfer."

While conceding that captive breeding programmes can be a successful option for ensuring species survival, BirdsCaribbean said it must, nonetheless, be grounded in "sound science".

 

SOUND SCIENCE

 

"Captive breeding programmes can be an effective and important conservation tool, for example, as shown for the Puerto Rican Parrot, but they must be based on sound science, be proposed and vetted transparently to the conservation community, and wherever possible, be in the country of origin," the entity said.

"Threatened species programmes must involve and empower to the maximum extent possible, the local organisations and communities who are ultimately the stewards for the species," BirdsCaribbean added.

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