The Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus) is the most endangered parrot in Africa and one of the most endangered birds in South Africa. It is endemic to South Africa and Critically Endangered due to various factors. These include, the degradation of our lastremaining Afromontane forest patches, forest fires, disease (specifically beak and feather disease), direct persecution as a crop pest, and illegal capture for the wildcaught bird trade. As a result the global population has been decimated to less than 1000.
The Wildlands Conservation Trust, working with the Department of Environmental Affairs, local NGO, the Wildlbird Trust and International donor agency, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), is putting a plan in place to reverse the decline and potential extinction of this species. According to Dr Roelie Kloppers, Executive Director at the Wildlands Conservation Trust, “the focus is not solely on saving the Cape Parrot from extinction, but on restoring the large yellowwood forests that traditionally housed and provided for these birds.”
Studies have shown a very strong link exists between Cape Parrots and Podocarpus yellowwood trees, whereby Cape Parrots were historically dependent on the three yellowwood species distributed within their range (i.e. Podocarpus falcatus, P. latifolius and P. henkeli) for sustenance and nesting opportunities. These forests have been degraded through centuries of uncontrolled logging and as a result of landscape transformation for agriculture and industrial development. “The parrots, like the canaries used a century ago in dark coal mines, tell us a story about the health of our environment. When they flourish it means we have a healthy ecosystem. At the same time, the fact that their numbers are plummeting, means our ecosystems are unhealthy and in need of repair,” said Kloppers.