The Yucatecan parrot, peninsular pride threatened by illegal animal traffic

Photo: (La Jornada Maya)

Mérida, Yucatán, (March 19, 2021).- For Dr. Vanessa Martínez García, director of the Santa María Project, the inhabitants of the peninsula must feel happy to live in the only place in the world where the Yucatecan parrot (Amazona xantholora) can be found, an endemic species whose main threat is the illegal animal traffic, a regrettably ingrained practice in the region.

This is a parrot that measures between 25 and 28 centimeters in length and can weigh between 200 and 230 grams. This is a species very similar to the white-fronted parrot, which is why they tend to get confused – especially when flying – but it has particular characteristics: a dark spot under the eye, its bright red outline and a yellow beak.

In the peninsula eight species of parrots of the 22 that exist in the country can be found; and the Yucatecan parrot is the only endemic one, although there are some records in Belize, which would be its distribution limit. It is not a migratory creature.

Yucatecan parrots -and in general- tend to feed on fruits, seeds, leaves from several different trees such as zapote, ramón, nance, ficus, tropical chestnut, ciricote, chacá, most of the wild fruit species serve them to subsist.

Its natural predators include some felines, especially in their reproductive period, when they are most vulnerable because they are only found in their nest. There are also lizards and boas that feed on them.

Regarding their reproduction period, Dr. Martínez explained that this takes place at the beginning of the year, especially at the end of January; and there are even records that this stage can prolong all the way to the month of May.

Parrots – and Psittacidae in general – are very long-living species, the larger they are, the longer they live. Macaws, for example, can live up to 80 years; and some parrots can live 40 years, depending on the environment in which they are. 

The Yucatecan parrot is considered a threatened species, according to the Official Mexican Standard of 2010. In fact, all the species of parrots in Mexico are in some category of risk: 11 are in danger of extinction, eight are threatened and three are under protection.

Threatened by illegal trafficking

The main threat of the Yucatecan parrot is undoubtedly illegal traffic, that is, the looting of its eggs and chicks for illegal trade; although many poachers catch adult specimens to put them on sale in the pet market.

Now in the middle of the reproductive season, Dr. Vanessa declared that the looting of the nests is already beginning to be noticed, people who knock them down, steal the chicks, and then offer them for sale on social networks without any remorse whatsoever.

“Even before the reproductive season, poachers steal the nests with total impunity,” lamented the biologist.

“The authorities cannot do anything about it, I suppose that the lack of resources is a factor that prevents them from carrying out their work. We see that from the Santa María Project when we make a report and they do not pay us any attention,” she added.

Dr. Martínez García stated that in Yucatán it is possible to speak of a network of trafficking of wild birds since constant reports and citizen complaints arrive on their Facebook pages so that practice of looting, sale, and delivery is carried out as if they were selling sandwiches. 

Although a parrot in its natural habitat can live up to 40 years, in captivity this species has a much lower life expectancy, since those who have them as pets do not provide them with the well-being conditions that a wild animal requires.

“There are many factors that cause these parrots to decay, become stressed, get sick from the same conditions; and die. During the extraction process, the vulnerability is too much, so that out of 10 parrots, eight die on a short period of time after being caught ”, she asserted.

Against this background, Doctor Martínez García warns that no parrot can be considered a pet. This is why Proyecto Santa María launched last month the “Do not buy wild parrots” campaign, with which they seek to raise awareness about this environmental problem. 

Source: La Jornada Maya