November 20, 2018 by Danica Coto
In this Nov. 6, 2018 photo, Puerto Rican parrots huddle in one of the flight cages located in the facilities of the Iguaca Aviary at El Yunque, were the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service runs a parrot recovery program in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. Biologists are trying to save the last of the endangered Puerto Rican parrots after more than half the population of birds disappeared when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and destroyed their habitat and food sources. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)
Biologists are trying to save the last of the endangered Puerto Rican parrots after more than half the population of the bright green birds with turquoise-tipped wings disappeared when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and destroyed their habitat and food sources.
In the tropical of El Yunque, only two of the 56 wild birds that once lived there survived the Category 4 storm that pummeled the U.S. territory in September 2017. Meanwhile, only 4 of 31 wild birds in a forest in the western town of Maricao survived, along with 75 out of 134 wild parrots living in the Rio Abajo forest in the central mountains of Puerto Rico, scientists said.
And while several dozen new parrots have been born in captivity and in the wild since Maria, the species is still in danger, according to scientists.
"We have a lot of work to do," said Gustavo Olivieri, parrot recovery program coordinator for Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources.
Federal and local scientists will meet next month to debate how best to revive a species that numbered more than 1 million in the 1800s but dwindled to 13 birds during the 1970s after decades of forest clearing.
The U.S. and Puerto Rican governments launched a program in 1972 that eventually led to the creation of three breeding centers. Just weeks before Maria hit, scientists reported 56 at El Yunque, the highest since the program was launched.