In prehistoric times the Puerto Rican “Cotorra” Parrot (Amazona vittata) was abundant and widespread throughout Puerto Rico, and was also found on the islands of Culebra, Vieques and Mona. It has been estimated that at the time of arrival of Columbus in 1493 the island had a population of between a 100,000 and one million Puerto Rican Parrots. The parrot flocks co-existed peacefully with the island’s pre-Columbian inhabitants, the Taino.
After the European colonisation of the island began 500 years ago, the size of the parrot population dwindled in direct proportion to the conversion of forested land to cities and farms, in so doing, the parrot’s only habitat was almost eradicated. By the middle of the last century, Amazona Vittata was a threatened species, very close to extinction.
How this potential avian tragedy was recognised and averted at the last moment, and how the multi-agency Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program was formed and continues the difficult fight to ensure its protection is an inspiring story. Today the population is approximately 400 parrots.
The Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program has two aviaries in Puerto Rico – one in El Yunque National Park and one in Rio Abajo. The El Yunque aviary is equipped with special observation platforms. Inside the labs & operating theatres study this endangered species , treat and nurture damaged birds and even carry out operations on them if necessary . This work has been crucial helping to protect and re generate this endangered species