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Dear Parrots magazine,

St Lucia Parrot

In her article in the April issue, Pam Fryer asked for up-to-date information about the Caribbean Amazons. Having recently returned from St Lucia, I can give some information on the magnificent endemic parrot (Amazona versicolor).

In 2009 the first ever point count was made to try to obtain an accurate population estimate. I met Matthew Morton from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, based at Jersey Zoo, to find out how the point count had been carried out. DWCT had been involved with the St Lucia Parrot from the late 1970s and is now concerned with the conservation of other rare endemics.

The point count was made during from the end of January until the beginning of March in 2009, just before the start of the breeding season when the parrots disperse more widely. Ten teams of three or four people went into the forest every day, covering areas that had been determined using a grid of the forest reserves. The survey results are expressed mathematically after using the well established technique of distance sampling. Twenty to twenty-five per cent of the rainforest was covered, from which the figures can be extrapolated to give the final result. It will be several months before this figure is released. However, Matthew told me, “I am very confident that there are more than one thousand parrots and the total could be very much higher!” This belief was echoed by Michael Bobb, the Deputy Director of the Forestry Department, who kindly took me into the Central Forest Reserve to see parrots.

The point count indicates a phenomenal result and may signal a better recovery of an endangered parrot in the neotropics that exceeds any other except the Yellow-eared Parrot of Colombia.

Pam Fryer said that St Lucia has 190 acres of rainforest, which would be a tiny area sufficient for a few dozen pairs at most. The forest reserves cover more than 20,000 acres. In recent years, former banana plantations have been bought by the Government, plus other crucial areas, and have been reverted to forest. The banana industry has decreased due to the fact that we, in Europe, can purchase bananas more cheaply from South America. She also stated that there are no captive parrots on the island. This is incorrect. There are two, kept singly, housed in spacious planted aviaries at the offices of the Forestry Department in Union, near Castries. These birds were bred at what was then Jersey Zoo nearly 20 years ago and returned to St Lucia to enable local people, most of whom will never see parrots in the forest, to appreciate their national bird.

As St Lucia is a popular holiday destination, visitors might like to know that anyone can see these two parrots, which are part of the ‘mini zoo’ at Union. It is on a bus route from Castries.

Rosemary Low (by email)




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