By Ruksha Maharaj
With September being celebrated as Heritage Month to mark our nation’s diverse culture and heritage, ponder the plight of the endangered Cape Parrot whose green and gold plumage must surely remind us of our national sporting teams.
Out in the wild, the beautiful bird may not be trained to scream “Go Bokke, Go Bokke!” when the Springboks play in the Rugby World Cup in France. But in their natural forest habitat, the Cape Parrot’s chirps and squeaks can really make you "Fall in Love."
The Cape Parrot is endemic to South Africa and due to the destruction of their natural forest environment, there are fewer than 2000 of the species.
This Heritage Month is an appropriate time to honour the heritage of the Cape Parrot by helping to preserve their habitat, while fostering sustainable development and environmental resilience in South Africa.
The adult female Cape Parrot is more colourful than the male, which is rare in the bird world. The males lose their vivid orange forehead patch as they become older, although both juveniles and females have it.
Dr Kirsten Wimberger, project director for the Cape Parrot Project and a trustee of the Wild Bird Trust said: “What better way to celebrate our heritage than to encourage businesses to assist in the preservation of the Cape Parrot's habitat."
"The Cape Parrot is strongly associated with Yellowwood forests which the founding father of democratic South Africa Nelson Mandela, adored."
"The Cape Parrot depends on the Yellowwood, South Africa’s national tree. The birds nest in the hollow of Yellowwood trees, they roost communally in Yellowwood forests and their preferred meal is the tough kernel of their fruits."
“Through research and habitat restoration initiatives, the Cape Parrot Project seeks to conserve the Cape Parrot, and community involvement is seen as a crucial component of their future success.”
South Africa’s forests not only provide a refuge for biodiversity but also play a crucial role in climate regulation, water provision, and soil conservation. However, deforestation, habitat degradation and illegal logging pose severe threats to these delicate ecosystems. Without immediate action, the Cape Parrot and its habitat face an uncertain future.
The Cape Parrot Project has partnered with local communities in and around Hogsback to create a Green Economy project that sources funding and support to build community nurseries where members, predominantly women, receive training and skills development to germinate and grow indigenous seedlings that are, in turn, purchased by the Project for restoration work. Currently, 50 people are working as growers, while a further 27 people work directly on restoration sites.
The recently launched MyForest Campaign is focused on forest restoration, such as alien vegetation management, planting trees and restoring habitat. The team is concentrating this year's efforts on rehabilitating an additional 15 ha of crucial Cape Parrot habitat.
The Wild Bird Trust is looking for support if you want to change the life of the Cape Parrot during Heritage Month. An appeal is made to organisations and individuals to contribute towards the R3m needed to restore the Cape Parrot's habitat.
She added that the MyForest Campaign takes on particular significance in September which is also celebrated as Arbour Month, and highlights the value and importance of trees and forests.
“This is a time to plant trees with the aim of raising awareness and paying special attention to our environment and the role trees play in it,” said Dr Wimberger.
ABOUT WILD BIRD TRUST
The Wild Bird Trust was founded in South Africa in 2009 by Dr Rutledge “Steve” Boyes with the primary objective of keeping birds safe in the wild by securing critical habitats for the benefit of ecosystems, wildlife and people in perpetuity. The initial project was the Cape Parrot Project, based in Hogsback, where Dr Boyes lived whilst he undertook his research on
these parrots. Since then, the Wild Bird Trust has grown to accommodate more projects and in 2014, the Okavango Wilderness Project was launched. This is a multi-year collaboration agreement with the National Geographic Society becoming the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, with a commitment to help conserve the iconic Okavango Delta by protecting the headwaters in Angola upon which it depends.
ABOUT CAPE PARROT PROJECT
The Cape Parrot is South Africa’s only endemic parrot. The species is endangered due to destruction and degradation of their forest habitat. The Cape Parrot Project aims to conserve the Cape Parrot through research and habitat restoration efforts, with community involvement being viewed as an integral part of our future success. BirdLife South Africa has named the Cape Parrot “2023 Bird of the Year” and has created beautiful material to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the Cape Parrot. For more information: https://www.wildbirdtrust.com/projects/cape-parrot-project