Endangered yellow-headed parrot chicks at risk from poaching, predation or nest overcrowding are brought to BBR for hand-rearing and release back into the wild. Typically we receive 20 to 30 chicks per year at a cost of $500US per bird. Since 2015 we have successfully released 73 birds that would otherwise have perished or entered the illegal pet trade. As a unique subspecies with fewer than 1200 birds in the wild, this is an important programme for both population impact and public awareness.
We expect 20 to 30 at-risk chicks per season, but that may increase if predictions of drought are correct, resulting in more Savannah fires. The local financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak will increase poaching pressures on this highly sought-after species. We have recently heard that most of the National Park's nests are active, which includes 50 additional artificial nest boxes which will to result in more chicks at risk from overcrowding mortality being extracted for hand-raising.
Funds raised will offset anticipated annual costs of feed, transportation and supplies for the programme, which in 2019 comprised 13% of the organisation's total annual budget. Belize Bird Rescue is now under considerable financial pressure as much of the operational funding comes from the tourism industry via Rock Farm Guest House, which has being particularly hard-hit by the recent COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Belize's endangered Amazona oratrix belizensis is a unique subspecies with fewer than 1200 wild individuals remaining. Global populations within their limited range are down 90% since the 1990's. BBR has already returned 102 chicks and ex-captive adults to Belize's forests, with 27 more due for release by June 2020. Continuation of this project will positively impact wild populations whilst increasing awareness for the species as a whole and parrot conservation in general.