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Religion, Psittacines and Palms – Conserving Rare Parrots in Ecuador


Ecuador’s yellow-eared parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis) and golden-plumed parakeet (Leptosittacia branickii) face a most unusual threat – an annual religious celebration.  The group Aves and Conservation has identified the collection of palm fronds for Catholic Easter celebrations as the main cause of the species’ near disappearance from Ecuador.

Survival Linked to a Single Tree

Both birds nest exclusively in Ceroxylon palms, the central leaves of which are harvested yearly in an unsustainable manner.  The palms do not reproduce until age 25-30, and live to age 75-100.  Removal of the leaves prevents reproduction, and may kill the palm.  The golden-plumed parakeet, once common throughout much of Ecuador, is now limited to the southern Andes provinces; the yellow-eared parrot has not been sighted at all in recent years, and is believed to number less than 150 nation-wide.

Providing Education and Alternatives

In cooperation with the government and other conservation groups, Aves and Conservation has embarked on a program designed to alert local people of the plight of both palms and parrots.  Local Catholic churches have been cooperating in the effort, encouraging members to use corn stalks and Eucalyptus in place of palms.

These substitute plants, grown at the Botanical Gardens of Quito and other locations, are distributed yearly in front of churches, and are gaining acceptance.  Happily, the golden-plumed parakeet has begun to reclaim some of its former range (please see below).

This program illustrates the importance of including within a conservation plan those people who will be most affected, and of offering alternatives.  Blanket prohibitions that impinge upon people’s religious beliefs or livelihoods are, in my experience, difficult to enforce and rarely successful in the long term.

Further Reading

You can read about recent golden-plumed parakeet nesting records at 



Images referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by markharper1 and Loise Wolff


About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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