Durrell staff member David Jeggo undertakes the first population survey for the Saint Lucia Amazon parrot and estimates that there are just 100-150 birds remaining. In just three decades, starting with the 1950s, numbers had decreased from an estimated 1000 to a mere 100, and the parrot’s habitat had shrunk to a fifth of what was already a tiny area. In light of this, Durrell is asked to help by starting a captive breeding programme at Durrell's wildlife park, Jersey.
Durrell's David Jeggo returns to Saint Lucia with independent expert Holly Nichols for a second expedition. Threats such as hunting, habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade are placing huge pressure on the wild population. Six parrots are brought back to Jersey on government loan from Saint Lucia in order to build the captive population.
Paul Butler, conservation advisor to the Saint Lucia Government's Forestry Department, begins a highly successful education programme with the philosophy of ‘Protection through Pride’. The Saint Lucia parrot programme features the ‘Jacquot Express’ - an old, brightly painted bus that doubled as a classroom and toured the island’s schools and villages.
Saint Lucia becomes an independent state and shortly after, the Saint Lucia Amazon is declared as St Lucia's national bird. Although the Saint Lucia parrot has been officially protected since 1849, the legislation had been largely ignored, but awareness and educational campaigns, coupled with the parrots new status as a national symbol, helped to restore a sense of pride and interest in the species.
Hurricane Allan devastates the forest habitat of the Saint Lucia Amazon parrot. Paul Butler sends an emergency call to Durrell’s David Jeggo asking him to assist with surveying the remaining population to try and estimate the full impact of the natural disaster.
George Julian and Alex Ford, Saint Lucia Forestry Department staff members, visited Durrell to train in captive husbandry techniques in order to take these skills back to Saint Lucia to establish a captive population of St Lucia Amazon parrots in country.
Great news as the first captive bred Saint Lucia Amazon parrot is bred successfully at Durrell's Wildlife Park in Jersey. David Jeggo's latest survey in the wild also finds no reduction in population numbers caused by the hurricane and the population is in fact showing signs of an increase.
For Saint Lucian people, these parrots, housed in two aviaries funded by Durrell, provided a rare opportunity to meet their often elusive national bird face to face. The captive population in Saint Lucia provided valuable educational opportunities and helped to raise awareness of the species.
Population surveys by Durrell's David Jeggo estimate an increase in the wild population to 300-350 individuals.
Studies on captive bred Saint Lucia Amazon parrots enabled staff to modify husbandry techniques to encourage parrots to rear their own young rather than having to be hand reared by keepers. Monitoring nest boxes during the breeding season using small cameras provided researchers and keepers with vital information about the species' behaviour.
Durrell's Hilary French visits Saint Lucia. Whilst there, Hilary helped streamline data collection and created standardised recording protocols for captive and wild data, allowing for effective monitoring and evaluation. She also found that the Forestry Department used very hands-on methods for captive breeding and used this new knowledge to improve rearing techniques back at Jersey.
Saint Lucia Forest Department and Durrell work in partnership on an extensive three year study to attempt to estimate a reliable population size estimate for the Saint Lucia Amazon. Durrell keeper Hester Whitehead works with Matt Morton, Durrell’s Conservation Biologist based in the Caribbean, to coordinate the survey effort. The study estimates the population size to be between 1750 and 2250 individuals, with a range of 116 km2.
In recognition of the success of conservation efforts in Saint Lucia which saw the population rise from 100-200 individuals in the 1970s, to over 1750 individuals in 2009, it is decided that the captive breeding programme in Jersey should be wound down as the recovery of this species in the wild negates the need for a back-up population.
A report is published by Durrell on the status of the parrot highlighting the successes and lessons learned from the 40 year conservation programme recovering the species. Recovery is attributed to a successful pride campaign, protection of habitat through reserves, rigorous ongoing monitoring and the safety net population, which enabled conservationists to study this elusive species.