A devastating forest fire in Nicaragua has destroyed a vitally important nesting and roosting site of the Yellow-naped Amazon, one of the most endangered parrots in Central America.
Peña Inculta, a haven of biodiversity on the twin-peaked volcanic island of Ometepe in the middle of Nicaragua's largest freshwater lake, was officially designated as a wildlife refuge in 2010 in view of its ecological and cultural importance.
It is home to almost 50 species of resident and migratory birds, including the Yellow-naped Amazon. This charismatic but seriously threatened bird is one of the more conspicuous and exotic inhabitants of Peña Inculta. And this forest is - or was - one of the most important roosting, feeding and nesting sites for Ometepe's iconic parrot, harbouring a population of more than 400 individuals.
The ecological impact of the fire is wide-reaching, and the destruction of parrot habitat will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on a broad spectrum of other wildlife, including capuchins and howler monkeys, agoutis, sloths, armadillos and bats, as well as a variety of reptiles. But it's the Yellow-naped Amazon that is likely to be hardest hit in view of the species' rarity and limited range.
As if it wasn't enough to run the gauntlet of nest-robbers who poach their eggs and young to supply the local, regional and international pet trade, these beleaguered parrots have now been deprived of a sizeable chunk of their forest home. Although it doesn't sound massive, the 120 hectares lost to the fire represents 40% of the most densely forested area within the wildlife refuge. The widespread loss of mature trees - on which the parrots depend for nest holes - is a particularly serious blow to their breeding prospects in the coming seasons.