Preserving Paradise: New Protection for Colombia’s Enigmatic Yellow-eared parrot

In a remarkable achievement for conservation, a new sanctuary has been established in central Colombia, marking a turning point in the fate of the once critically endangered Yellow-eared Parrot. The Loros Andinos Regional Natural Park, recently declared by Conservation Allies partner ProAves Foundation and the regional environmental corporation CORTOLIMA, represents the cradle of the parrot’s spectacular recovery.

Introduction to the plight of the Yellow-eared parrot

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Yellow-eared Parrot thrived across the Colombian Andes. However, by the 1980s, relentless hunting and the logging of Quindío Wax Palms, the parrots’ primary habitat, for Palm Sunday rituals had brought both the parrot and the palm to the brink of extinction. In fact, the parrot was thought to be extinct until 1999, when ProAves Foundation launched an emergency campaign, led by Conservation Allies President Paul Salaman, to locate and protect any remaining Yellow-eared Parrot population. Their discovery of the last remaining flock in Roncesvalles, Tolima, marked the beginning of a concerted effort to address threats and bolster the population, which had dwindled to just 81 individuals.

Conservation Actions in Colombia

Central to the species’ recovery was the acquisition of private cattle farms in the parrot’s core breeding area. Establishing a protected sanctuary ensured safe nesting and breeding grounds, crucial for population growth. Recognizing the importance of this sanctuary, the regional environmental corporation CORTOLIMA declared the 11,406-acre area as the Loros Andinos Regional Natural Park, formally protecting the unique cloud forest and alpine tundra habitats in the Colombian Andes. 

On December 26, 2023, the Loros Andinos Regional Natural Park was officially declared, securing the future of the Yellow-eared Parrot and Quindío Wax Palm. 

The declaration of the Loros Andinos Regional Natural Park was made possible through collaboration with various organizations, including Conservation International, American Bird Conservancy, and ASOCARS. This milestone sets the stage for further declarations of ProAves Natural Reserves, crucial for protecting Colombia’s rich biodiversity.

“ProAves is immensely proud to have helped CORTOLIMA declare the Loros Andinos Regional Natural Park on 26th December 2023 that safeguards the Quindío Wax Palm and the site that ensured the survival of the wonderful Yellow-eared Parrot. After 25 years, the Yellow-eared Parrot population exceeds 3,500 individuals and thanks to this Park today, this parrot is no longer considered at risk of extinction.”

Sara Inés, Executive Director of ProAves Foundation

In addition to the Yellow-eared Parrot, the park also safeguards habitat for other threatened species, including Fuertes’s Parrot, the Rufous-fronted Parakeet, the Golden-plumed Parakeet, and the Rusty-faced Parrot. Additionally, it preserves a diverse range of flora and fauna endemic to Colombia’s Central Cordillera.

Remembering the past for a better future

Over the past 25 years, the ProAves team faced numerous challenges and tragedies in their work to protect the Yellow-eared parrot, including the loss of ranger Gonzalo Cardonas, who was murdered defending the species. In light of such sacrifices, the permanent protection of the Loros Andinos Regional Natural Park stands as a beacon of hope in the fight to conserve endangered species. 

In a time where many species face uncertain futures, the recovery of the Yellow-eared Parrot in Colombia serves as a testament to the impact of dedicated conservation efforts. The establishment of the Loros Andinos Regional Natural Park highlights the potential to make a difference in preserving biodiversity, even in the face of great adversity.