Endangered Puerto Rican parrots released into the wild

This video says about itself:

19 March 2014

Get to know the Puerto Rican Parrot with Mr. Wizard.

From La Prensa in Puerto Rico:

15 Endangered Puerto Rican parrots released into the wild

22 January 2015

San Juan, Jan 22 (EFE). Fifteen Puerto Rican parrots were released into the wild to strengthen the critically endangered species, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, or DRNA, said.

The release of the birds, also known as Puerto Rican amazons, in the Rio Abajo State Forest “is a crucial step in the program to restore this species,” DRNA Secretary Carmen Guerrero said.

“Each time we release birds, with the intention of increasing the number of parrots living in the wild, we advance step by step toward a not-so-distant future when the bird the Tainos (Puerto Rico‘s early inhabitants) called the iguaca may be taken off the list of species in danger of extinction,” she said.

The DRNA is in the process of preparing an additional 200 Puerto Rican to be released into the wild.

The most recent census found the number or Puerto Rican parrots living free in the Rio Abajo State Forest ranges between 50 and 100, with another group in the El Yunque National Park on the island’s northeastern coast.

The program to restore the species is led by DRNA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Forest Service.

Birds being trained for life in the wild must spend at least one year in cages large enough to allow flight. They are fed with fruits they will find in the wilderness and taught to recognize their natural predators.

Two Puerto Rican parrots were born in the wild last year in the Rio Abajo, an landmark achievement for the program.

Authorities estimate that Puerto Rico was home to more than 1 million Puerto Rican parrots in the 19th century. By the 1950s, their numbers had fallen to barely 200.

In 1968, the species was included in the U.S. federal endangered species list and the restoration program began in 1973 with a first center in El Yunque for reproduction in captivity.

A second center for reproduction in captivity was established in Rio Abajo in 1993.

The first release of a batch of Puerto Rican parrots took place in 2000 in El Yunque, followed in 2006 by a release in Rio Abajo.

Good Puerto Rican toad news

This video says about itself:

15 November 2010

A short video about the Puerto Rican Crested Toad – Peltophryne lemur.

From mongabay.com:

Puerto Rico‘s only native toad bounces back from edge of extinction

Shreya Dasgupta, mongabay.com correspondent

December 19, 2014

Captive breeding program increases Puerto Rican crested toad from 200 to thousands

The Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) has had a miraculous journey. Once common on the islands of Puerto Rico and Virgin Gorda, its population declined by more than 80 percent over the past decade, leaving behind just some 200 individuals in the wild. These few individuals are now known only from a handful of locations in Puerto Rico.

The toads were even thought to have gone extinct from 1931, until a small population was rediscovered in 1966. But researchers have turned their fate around. Since 1992, they have successfully bred in captivity and re-introduced to the wild more than 300,000 of these threatened toads.

In October of this year, for instance, researchers from the toad’s Species Survival Plan (SSP) of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), released captively bred tadpoles to six sites in north and south Puerto Rico.

“Many species such as the Puerto Rican Crested Toad are declining and will not persist in the wild without ex situ conservation action, such as captive breeding, until threats in the wild can be mitigated or resolved,” Diane Barber, Coordinator of the SSP, the AZA Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group Chair and Curator of Ectotherms at the Fort Worth Zoo, told mongabay.com.

Puerto Rico

The island of Puerto Rico suffered extensive deforestation that reduced its forest cover to less than six percent by the 1940s. But many areas cleared for agriculture and sugar plantations that eventually became unproductive began undergoing natural regeneration, and by 2003, Puerto Rico’s forest cover increased to 53 percent. As of 2012, about 64 percent of the island of Puerto Rico is under natural or planted tree cover, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

However, less than one percent of the forests today are the island’s original primary forests. Moreover, the regenerated vegetation differs considerably from the original forest cover before deforestation, and a significant portion of the island is now covered by coffee plantations. Between 2001 and 2012, Puerto Rico experienced about 13,000 hectares of tree cover loss, according to the Global Forest Watch—although some of this loss may be due to plantation harvesting.

Much of the terrestrial fauna on the island have been introduced by people. Some of these include cats, dogs, mongoose, and several species of ants, birds, amphibians and reptiles. But Puerto Rico also boasts of a number of endemic species found only on the island, such as the Critically Endangered Puerto Rican parrot, whose population in the wild was reduced to about 13 individuals by 1970s largely due to habitat destruction. The bird is now being bred in captivity and released into the wild. The Puerto Rican crested toad, like the Puerto Rican parrot, is on its path to recovery.

Puerto Rican Crested Toad

Currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List, Puerto Rican crested toads were once divided into two distinct populations, one in the north coast and the other in the south coast of Puerto Rico. Since 1992, however, no toad has been recorded in the northern coast, where they are now thought to be extinct. The last extant wild population of the toads, according to the IUCN Red List, lies within the Guanica National Forest in southern Puerto Rico.

In 1984, the AZA created the Species Survival Plan to save the Puerto Rican Crested Toads from extinction, the first of its kind for an amphibian. Captive breeding and reintroduction of tadpoles to ponds in the wild became one of the most important goals of the plan.

Currently, sixteen AZA institutions participate in the toads’ breeding efforts every year, according to Barber. Each toad at these breeding centers is individually identifiable and their ancestry in the wild tracked. The toads are paired and bred to ensure the captively bred population maintains the highest possible genetic diversity.

The resulting tadpoles are then sent to sites within the toads’ historic habitat, and are not mixed with the remaining wild population, Barber said.

But successful captive breeding of an endangered species such as the Puerto Rican crested toad is not easy. It involves a lot of tricks, Scott Silver, Facility Director and Curator of Animals at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Queens Zoo, told mongabay.com. WCS’s Queens Zoo breeds the Puerto Rican Crested Toads as part of the AZA, and has successfully raised tadpoles for the toads’ recovery program for the first time this year.

“We estimate we raised and released approximately 2,400 tadpoles,” Silver said.

To ensure successful breeding in captivity, conditions at the breeding enclosures are adjusted to mimic conditions in the wild. For instance, since the toads breed during the rainy season in the wild, enclosures at the Queens Zoo are equipped with misting chambers, according to WCS’s press release. Researchers also play the toads’ breeding calls to encourage courtship and mating. Hormones are also used to induce the toads to lay eggs, to fertilize them within a short time frame, and provide enough offspring for reintroduction efforts, Barber said.

“We currently breed the toads for six different releases per year,” she said. “Typically three to four institutions will attempt to breed for each release and normally at least two to three will be successful. The breeding process from start to finish typically takes three months and is coordinated so everyone is sending the tadpoles to Puerto Rico at the same time.”

Currently, there are six release sites in Puerto Rico for the toads. Two of these are on properties managed by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and four are on lands privately managed by non-profit groups, Barber said.

“We released at all six sites in 2014,” she added. “Three of our sites are new enough that reintroduced toads are not mature enough to return to breed (an indicator of success), but the tadpoles metamorphosed and dispersed naturally after the events and have survived/been observed 1-2 years after release (another indicator of success). We have had good survivorship and breeding events at our ‘older’ sites, but population numbers are unknown due to the difficulty of being able to census/monitor this cryptic species outside of major breeding events.”

The main threats to Puerto Rican crested toads in the past have been habitat loss, as well as competition with introduced species of toad such as the giant cane toad that sugarcane farmers imported from South America to eat pests attacking sugarcane. These existing threats need to be addressed for reintroduction of the toads into the wild to be truly successful.

“We continuously monitor our reintroduction sites and land managers eradicate predators such as the marine toad and mongoose,” Barber said “Enclosures are put up around the reintroduction ponds to keep dragonfly larvae from consuming the tadpoles and also keep out marine toads and birds. Reintroduction sites are placed in protected, managed areas where the toads will have room to disperse within karst [limestone] habitat.”

While there is still a long way to go for Puerto Rico’s only native toad, success of the AZA’s captive-breeding program offers some hope.

“If the Puerto Rican Crested Toad goes extinct, so would any hope we have of discovering any other unique, interesting or beneficial characteristics they may possess,” Silver said. “That is a loss we always have when a species goes extinct. We lose the chance to learn, and we lose something that the world has had for thousands and thousands of years.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article mentioned sugar cane plantations cover a significant portion of Puerto Rico. However, a source informed us that while sugar cane was cultivated intensively in decades past, it’s currently grown on just approximately 500 hectares of the island.


  • Hansen, M. C., P. V. Potapov, R. Moore, M. Hancher, S. A. Turubanova, A. Tyukavina, D. Thau, S. V. Stehman, S. J. Goetz, T. R. Loveland, A. Kommareddy, A. Egorov, L. Chini, C. O. Justice, and J. R. G. Townshend. 2013. “Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA Tree Cover Loss and Gain Area.” University of Maryland, Google, USGS, and NASA. Accessed through Global Forest Watch on Dec. 19, 2014. http://www.globalforestwatch.org.

Latino eco-festival in Colorado, USA

This video from the USA is called 1st Americas Latino Eco Festival 2013 ALEF.

By Sara Bernard in the USA:

Latino eco-festival hosts big stars, bigger ideas

9 Sep 2014 7:02 AM

Irene Vilar has always felt a strong pull towards social change. In fact, activism is in her blood: In 1954, the book publisher and award-winning author’s grandmother went to jail in the name of Puerto Rican independence. Sixty years later, Vilar wants to tackle the biggest social change campaign on the planet: the one that’s trying to save it.

In 2007, Vilar founded the nonprofit Americas for Conservation + the Arts, a Latin America-focused arts and education network, and last year, she launched Americas Latino Eco Festival, the U.S.’s first-ever Latino-themed enviro fest. The second ALEF kicks off this week, from September 11-16 in Boulder, Colo.

Vilar’s event is nothing if not ambitious. Dubbed a “Latino South by Southwest,” ALEF is “a high-end festival of ideas,” she says, complete with Grammy Award-winning musicians, Broadway actors, documentary filmmakers, Newbery Award-winning illustrators, educators, visual artists, chefs, and activists. But she’s also brought in high-profile environmental leaders of all stripes to talk about everything from fossil fuels to GMOs, environmental justice to water scarcity.

The event’s co-sponsors include the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign and Boulder-based The Dairy Center for the Arts. Speakers include Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, actors and environmentalists Edward James Olmos and Ed Begley Jr., Mexican-American climate scientist Patricia Romero Lankao (one of the recipients of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize alongside Al Gore), and environmental justice scholar Dorceta Taylor (whom Grist interviewed a few months back). In addition to all the film screenings and art exhibits and discussion panels, there’s an entire art-and-workshop-filled K-12 education component, too — which could have been, Vilar says, “a whole festival in itself” — focused on how climate change affects bird migration.

Gathering the resources for such a monumental showcase is no simple task (Vilar’s team is still a few thousand in the red from last year’s fest, and as of a few weeks ago, was still looking for the last bit of funding for this one), but that has no bearing on its tenacity — or its success. They’ve raised double what they raised last year and have attracted a slew of green- and Latino-minded sponsors, including Whole Foods, Patagonia, Telemundo, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

For Vilar, money is not what’s at stake: It’s our planet, ourselves, and the importance of actively engaging all communities, particularly communities of color, in the conversation about climate change. “I cannot afford to start small,” she says. “It needs to be fast. Super fast. We’ve got to create a precedent, and then see what happens.”

We caught up with Vilar to talk about how the festival got started, why Latinos in particular are concerned about the environment, how talking about climate change can be an umbrella for talking about social change, and why it’s more crucial than ever to include everyone in these discussions. Here’s an edited and condensed version of what she had to say:

On why book publishing is still important — but not enough:

For the last 20 years, I’ve edited a book series that publishes minority writers of the Americas. We publish literature in translation. Less than 1 percent of people in the United States read literature in translation. [*Editor’s note: That’s tough to quantify, but it’s true that less than 1 percent of all fiction and poetry published in the U.S. is in translation.] As a publisher, you’re impacting culture in a very slow way. A book takes about 10 years to penetrate culture. What needs to be done now is raising awareness through bringing people together, creating noise, and gathering once a year to create a platform and raise our voices.

On diversity in the environmental movement:

Being in Colorado, and being in Boulder, one of the greenest cities in America, I wanted to get involved more with the environmental movement. Everywhere you go there’s an organization or a flier. I would go to meetings and show up sometimes, but I felt really disconnected.

There are these campaigns of misinformation that make people believe they’re not qualified to participate. You have this incredible disproportion between the actual multicultural fabric of the country and all these institutions: higher education, conservation organizations, politics, Hollywood. The country has been brown for a long time, but these institutions do not represent the brown face of the country. When that happens, my children grow up feeling like they do not belong.

We all talk about diversity, but diversity and inclusion are two different things.  We have to reach across borders. We have to reconnect with our cultures of origin. Natural resources have no national borders. Our entire future depends on the extent to which we engage communities of color. If we don’t do that, there’s no future.

On Latinos as huge environmentalists:

Over 90 percent of Latinos believe in [human-caused] climate change; that’s compared to about 50 percent of Americans in general.

When I was doing research for the festival, my first impression was to buy the story we are sold — that there is no Latino leader in the environmental movement. What I discovered is that the supply is there. I realized that it’s not about educating our communities, but the white communities! It’s more about educating them and validating us. There are a few issues; one of them is that the environmental movement is looking for PhDs. Our community is underserved. Many of my friends have grandfathers and fathers and mothers that have not even high school degrees, but we’re great conservation leaders.

By 2050, 30 percent of this country will be Hispanic. In Colorado, 52 percent of the high schoolers will be Hispanic. And in the last two years, amazing things have been happening. Things are moving very fast. Green LatinosNRDC, the League of Conservation Voters (it has wonderful Spanish language outreach), HECHO, the Hispanic Access FoundationVoces VerdesLatino Outdoors: We’re bringing them all to the festival.

On why Latinos are huge environmentalists:

Because we are living it in our skin, because we suffer from it. Latin Americans and African Americans are disproportionately affected by pollution, especially clean air. They suffer more than whites from asthma. They live in the most polluted cities. The big bulk of these communities, especially Latin Americans, are working outdoors, in agriculture. They’re exposed to sun, to climate change, to pesticides and chemicals.

And we come from societies that have a huge respect for science. In Latin America, science is huge. We look up to science. We want our children to be scientists.

Latin Americans also come from a very ecological tradition. Indigenous elements survive in our cultures, in our crafts, in our extended families. We have a legacy of recycle, reuse, upcycle because we cannot afford to dispose of anything or anyone.

On social justice and climate change:

Racism, social justice, human rights: climate change is something that unites all these platforms.  The reality of climate change made me sensitive to the fact that this gathering has to be framed around the environment. It’s the issue of the moment — and of the future. It’s also a wonderful platform to talk about these other issues.

When we talk about social justice, we need to be framing it in ways that don’t create fear, create walls. We’re all mothers, no matter what. Immigrant or no immigrant, we want our children to breathe good air, eat real food, and have access to clean water. We can talk about social justice, immigration, and all these issues that are very important, but the environmental platform will kind of dilute the defenses.

On the fact that people do care:

Last year was wonderful. We were able to rely on human capital, which proved to me that the product that we were launching — the multicultural Latino eco-festival — was filling a huge void. We saw a lot of excitement from people.

And the most inspiring thing is to really have an experience of what social capital is. The festival happened in its first year and is happening now only because of the power of people, of social capital. You have to stick by that because the element of disbelief can be so big in enterprises of this nature. As a mother of two Latina girls, I ask myself, how is the world going to be for them when they’re my age? Sometimes I feel hopeless. But I’ve discovered that there is hope.