Survival of the Puerto Rican Parrot

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary When I was in Puerto Rico, I remember the distinctive sound of a well-known frog called the coqui. It sounded like a chirping bird, and it was pleasant to listen to at night. To my knowledge, the coqui, about the size of half a finger, is native only to Puerto Rico. There is no other like it in the rest of the Caribbean. Another animal native to Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rican parrot. About a foot long, the Puerto Rican parrot is an especially endangered species.

No one is sure, but before the coming of the Spanish it is estimated that there were over one million such parrots in Puerto Rico. However, deforestation over the centuries as well as planting sugar cane crops and over-hunting killed most of the Puerto Rican parrots. By 1972, there were estimated to be only 13 Puerto Rican parrots left. At that time the Puerto Rican Commonwealth government stepped on to try and save the species. This was not easy because it was discovered that the parrot is particularly sensitive to changes in its environment and human activity.

The other problem was making sure that those Puerto Rican parrots raised would survive in the wild. Great care has been taken to help Puerto Rican parrots from when they are born to when they reach adulthood to be able to survive. As much effort has been put into the parrot chicks having contact with adult parrots as possible so they will survive in the wild. When the chicks became adults they were released into the wild such as El Yunque National Forest. It is estimated that there may be a couple of hundred of Puerto Rican parrots today (not counting those in the zoos).

The species is far from secure. A dangerous virus or natural disaster could impact those parrots alive today and destroy the whole species. It has taken decades to bring the species back from what most certainly looked like extinction. There is the possibility that the Puerto Rican parrot will now survive and its numbers will grow again. No one is sure about the species’ future, but for now its present looks hopeful.

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