The Latin Connection - Who to contact if you want to help
This directory highlights some of the groups whose work might not be familiar to you but who are conducting important bird conservation work in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the American Bird Conservancy*.
Amazon Conservation Association
MACA is dedicated to conserving the maximum amount of Amazonian biodiversity. In pursuit of this goal, ACA has recently been awarded the first ever conservation concession; a permanently renewable contract with the Peruvian government desired to protect 340,000 acres of old-growth Amazonian forest in the Los Amigos watershed in southeast Peru. This area includes several salt-licks that are crucial habitat for Blue- headed and Scarlet Macaws, Mealy Parrots, Blue- headed parrots, and many other species. This conservation concession will serve as a mechanism for development of a regional center of excellence in natural forest management and biodiversity science.
ACA has also recently purchased 9,000 acres adjacent to the eastern Andes' Manu National Park, including cloud-forest habitat that is not well- represented in protected areas. This higher-elevation habitat will be crucial as global climate change forces many species to re-adjust their distribution. Other ACA programs, including their "Brazil Nut Program" foster the pro- duction of non-timber forest products as income for local people and incen- tive for forest conservation. Brazil nut trees cover more than 10 million acres of Amazonian Peru and greater areas in Bolivia and Brazil. Managing these areas for optimal forest health means optimal Brazil nut production and optimal habitat protection for a variety of birds, including the rare Harpy Eagle which nest in the Brazil nut trees.
Conservation Counterparts is an American Bird Conservancy program designed to help conservation-minded North Americans partner with and support Latin American and Caribbean bird conservation projects. For instance, in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, in the state of Queretaro in central Mexico, home to 363 bird species, the Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda (GESG) is actively working to protect resident and migratory birds through its Program of Environmental Education and Prevention of Forest Fires. This program reaches 16,000 children monthly in 170 rural schools in the area.
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
GGBO has established a Site Partner Network to assist the conservation work of organizations and sites throughout the gulf Coast Region. This Network currently includes 34 partners throughout the area, responsible for more than 5.7 million acres of coastal habitat. Fifteen of these partners protect habitats outside the US: seven in the Yucatan Peninsula, seven in the Mexican provinces of Veracruz and Tamaulipas, and one in western Cuba. By being part of this network, the partners around the Gulf of Mexico benefit from information exchange, fundraising assistance, publicity, etc.
GCBO has also initiated a "Sister-Site" program, partnering two sites with commonly shared features and management issues. The most suc- cessful of these efforts thus far has been a partnership between Houston Audubon Society and the Amigos de Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, which has resulted in the construction of a nature trail system and visitor center, as well as training locals to act as ecotourism guides.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Both of these raptor organizations actively support HAWK MOUNTAIN Pronatura Veracruz through the "River of Raptors" monitoring program. The world's most concentrated migratory raptor flyway, four to five million raptors migrate hrough Veracruz annually, along with hundreds of thousands of wading birds, including White Pelican, Anhinga, Wood Stork, and White-faced Ibis. Both Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and HawkWatch International provide technical assistance to the Veracruz program, training staff members through international internships and providing support in research design, monitoring, education and fundrais- ing. They jointly offer guided tour packages to Veracruz every fall.
Long Point Bird Observatory
Noting that the health of Canadian bird populations depends largely on the health of their southern wintering grounds, Bird Studies Canada began directing its attention to Latin America and the Caribbean in the late '80's. A 1988 pilot project provided equipment and training in field ornithology tech- niques to Cuban ornithologists. The success of this effort led to the 1995 launch of a Latin American Training Program, sponsored by Bird Studies Canada, with the Canadian Wildlife Service and BirdLife International. This program brings three Latin American biologists to Canada every year for a month of intensive training in field ornithology, with the goal of equipping them to return to their countries and pass their training on to others. Since its inception, 23 scientists from more than 12 countries have received advanced training. A recent survey of past participants in the program indicates that the majority have become involved in formal training efforts in their home coun- tries. The most pressing needs for training continue to be in the areas of data analysis, survey techniques and building membership/donor support.
RARE Center for Tropical Conservation
Working in Latin America, the Caribbean, South Africa and the Pacific, RARE Center focuses on meaningful partnerships with local organizations, promoting education, empowerment and sustainable economic opportunities. Much of RARE'S efforts for bird conservation are centered around education, featuring their signature Promoting Protection Through Pride campaign, and Ecotourism and Community Development.
The "Pride" campaign uses a charismatic local species (usually an endemic bird) as a symbol of national pride, and raises public awareness through intensive PR campaigns. Over the past decade, these efforts have reached more than 1.75 million people in 25 countries, resulting in the estab- lishment of protected areas, strengthened wildlife protection laws, recover of endangered bird populations and increased funding for conservation.
RARE'S Ecotourism and Community Development efforts have led to the formation of a four-year partnership with the UNESCO World Heritage Center, designed to preserve biodiversity in developing countries. Focusing on six sites in Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia and Mexico, the designated areas are recognized as irreplaceable pieces of our world's natural heritage, and all face threats from such practices as slash and burn agriculture and illegal logging, as well as limited funding for land management and education. The goal for this project is to help park managers effectively use sustainable tourism as a tool to preserve biodiversity.
Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory
Founded to address the conservation needs of birds of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, RMBO recognizes the need to conduct work on the wintering grounds of these birds as well. Many of the species that breed in shortgrass prairie in the United States winter in the grasslands of northern Mexico. RMBO has conducted several research projects on the Central Mexican Plateau, studying grassland birds such as Long-billed Curlew, Burrowing Owl, Cassin's Sparrow, and Baird's Sparrow. RMBO has also been active in the Pacific coastal states ofJalisco, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero and Oax- aca, where work with Mexican researchers resulted in the manuscript Sta- tus and Needs of Western Mexico Parks and Protected Areas.
One of RMBO's educational programs has an international connection‹ Birds Beyond Borders (BBB). BBB connects students in the US with stu- dents in Mexico through a letter exchange program. Currently students from Colorado, New Mexico, and Idaho participate in RMBO's BBB and stu- dents in Montana participate in a spin-off program with the same name co- ordinated by Montana Audubon. BBB uses the birds we share with Mexico as the context for learning about migratory birds and Mexican culture and for making new friends. Throughout the school year, along with the letter ex- changes, teachers participating in BBB are encouraged to keep their stu- dents interested in and learning about birds through RMBO's Activity of The Month program and by participating in RMBO fieldtrips, such as visits to RMBO education and banding stations and rookeries.
Vermont Institute of Natural Science
The work of VINS in the Caribbean began in 1994, when interest in protecting Bicknell's Thrush led researchers to seek out the bird on its primary wintering grounds in the Dominican Republic. Working with the National Park Service and several Dominican non-profits, including Grupo Jaragua and Fundacion Moscoso Puello, VINS has since initiated long-term demographic studies, banding projects, and other field-based efforts to better understand the country's conservation needs.
While there are designated National Parks in the Dominican Republic, these areas exist largely as "Paper Parks" with little or no formal manage- ment. VINS researchers regularly train local wildlife biologists, birding clubs and other volunteers to raise awareness of avian conservation, and to equip them to continue conservation efforts on their own. During the sum- mer of 2001, the International Office of the U.S. Forest Service funded a 3- week visit by two Dominican biologists to Vermont for further, intensive training. VINS is also helping to produce a Field Guide to the Birds of Hispaniola. With both Spanish and English versions, the book should become a valuable tool to increase local interest in birding. Additionally, VINS recently received a grant from the National Geographic Society to study the nesting ecology of endemic and other resident species in the Dominican Republic's Sierra de Bahoruco. Very little is known about most Dominican endemics, yet threats such as habitat loss and introduced rats may soon pose serious conservation problems.
Federal agencies continue to make invaluable contributions to conservation efforts throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Here's just a sampling:
Park Flight is a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), National Park Foundation and National Wildlife Foundation, and funded through the support of American Airlines and the NPS Natural Resource Challenge.
USDA Forest Service
The US Forest Service's scientific and management expertise works to improve ecosystem integrity, biological diversity and identify critical habitats for migratory birds throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. For example, in Brazil's Pantanal‹the world's largest freshwater ecosystem‹ the Agency is collaborating with Ducks Unlimited to generate a database that will help detect ecological changes, and with The Nature Conservancy to develop monitoring systems that will evaluate critical conservation areas and the threats posed to them.
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Program
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation supports neotropical migrant conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean through the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Program. The NMBCP funds habitat conservation and management efforts conducted on the local and regional level. Projects are selected for funding through a competitive challenge grant program, with funds provided through a cooperative agreement between the NFWF and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
US Fish and Wildlife Service International Affairs
Through the office of International Affairs, the USFWS works multilaterally with many partners and nations to implement conservation plans, international treaties, and on-the-ground projects to protect a variety of species and their habitats. The purpose is not only to protect endangered birds, but to strengthen the ability of the region's own conservationists, institutions, and communities to conserve biological diversity.
*Source: with permission. Bird Conservation Issue 19, American Bird Conservancy. P.O. Box 249. The Plains, VA 20198
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