Core to IFAW’s work are the pillars of rescue, rehabilitation and release of animals in the places they call home. Without concern for the welfare of every individual animal, our global conservation efforts to save wildlife populations and habitats from natural and human caused threats would be for naught.
When we first arrived in Dominica in October, our worst fears were confirmed. The devastation from Hurricane Maria was near total. Not a single building was spared, and the natural forests, home to the island’s two endemic amazon parrots – the imperial and red-necked parrots – had been ravaged. Thankfully we came prepared with supplies to provide relief for communities and their animals.
We initially sent more than 1,000 pounds of food for dogs and cats to Dominica in the wake of the storm, and when we were finally able to get our team to the island, we managed to transport another 1,300 pounds. This is in addition to the hundreds of pounds of food specially prepared to feed the endangered imperial amazon and threatened red necked amazon parrots.
Dominica’s Parrot Conservation and Research Centre was devastated in the storm and without electricity for months. With help from IFAW's Dr. Erika Flores and Chief Veterinarian Dr. St. Aimee, the team was able to safely rescue, assess, treat, and in some cases, operate on injured parrots even at dusk using battery-powered lights.
In December, IFAW's rescue team returned to Dominica to aid in the rehabilitation of red necked amazon parrots (locally known as "jacos") and to provide continued support to impacted communities and their animals. Red necked amazon parrots are threatened with extinction and every individual within the population makes a difference in the survival of the species.
Finally, just this week (February), the team returned for the third stage of our work with Dominica’s parrots – the hopeful release of those ready for life back in the wild!
Our Disaster Response team is in Dominica for our 3rd trip post Hurricane Maria. Working alongside Parrot Conservation & Research Centre and Division of Forestry, Wildlife & Parks as we evaluate health of rehabilitated parrots. Goal is to RELEASE back home to their wild habitat! pic.twitter.com/QRvRdNhJvB— ifaw (@action4ifaw) February 3, 2018
Nine red-necked amazon parrots are recovering in the aviary at the Centre. Dr. Flores is currently conducting health assessments to determine who might be ready for release, and our larger response team is finding appropriate sites for release. Just this weekend, we recorded 70+ sightings of individual parrots, and the team was elated to see such a large population of parrots thriving in the wild where they belong!
UPDATE: I’m happy to report that our rescue team was able to release four rehabilitated red-necked amazon parrots back into the wild in Dominica! After locating a proper spot for release (ie. finding other parrots present and foraging) and performing final health assessments, these happy parrots are now on their way to reuniting with the native population and island habitat!
Remaining parrots at the aviary will need to rehabilitate through the next molting cycle to ensure their tail feathers are strong enough to steer through Dominica’s windy weather.
As a Dominican myself, with a life-long passion for animal welfare and conservation, I’m extremely proud of IFAW’s long history of working to help the community animals and wildlife on this incredible island. We partner with various government agencies and NGOs who share our hope for the region's endangered native species. In this project, IFAW is partnering with Dr. Reginald Thomas, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Director Mr. Minchinton Burton, Division of Forestry, Wildlife and National Parks both of whom are my former classmates.
Recovery will take years, and IFAW is committed to helping Dominicans, their animals, and the island’s incredible natural heritage. Thanks to dedicated rescuers, and supporters like you, we aim to release these rehabilitated parrots to live out their remaining years in the wild, and we will continue building capacity and supplies for Dominica’s pets at the local animal clinic.