The Chocoyo, commonly known in other parts of the world as the parakeet, is a beautiful breed of bird native to Nicaragua. It lives, breeds and feeds in the vast tree canopies of the northeastern area of the country. In the natural world, its main predators are snakes and foxes, though its principal and most dangerous predator is, of course, the human being.
The sale of Chocoyos has been so profitable for locals involved in the business that it did not become outlawed until this year. The birds are taken from their natural habitats and put into crates on early morning buses heading far north, primarily to the US and Canada, where their sale price seems to be more important than the price that the environment pays for their removal (at their destination, the bird can be bought for around 30 U.S. dollars to serve as home pets or ornaments). One nature reserve in Nicaragua, El Chocoyero, has seen a loss of 1700 birds over the past five years.
Many countries prohibit the sale and domestication of national birds, yet foreign birds can be bought and sold just like any other commodity. In Costa Rica, for example, Nicaraguan birds are sold since the sale of local birds is illegal. What we need to keep in mind is where exactly the exotic birds that are kept in cages originally came from—Who are their mothers? How were they captured? How does this affect their ecosystems and the food chain? Ignoring these questions makes it easy to encage precious endangered species without understanding the consequences.
Unfortunately, though the sale of Chocoyos is the greatest cause of their population decline, bird sellers are not the only group of people who pose a threat to their existence. Landowners and farmers seeking to increase their crop yield are progre
ssively cutting down trees to increase their area of cultivation. People in the lumber business also harm the Chocovos by cutting down the trees that the birds live and breed in. A combination of these factors puts the survival of this bird species as well as their habitats at serious risk.
The sale of Chocoyos will not decline until their demand does so first. A shift in interest from having birds in the living room to being able to see them flourishing in their natural environments of high priority if we want to see a change. A widespread interest in the safety of the Chocoyo population is imperative for serious national action to be taken against their trade as well as for their survival as a species on our endangered planet.
Understanding the global importance of local efforts, the people at La Mariposa have dedicated themselves to taking care of a group of Chocoyos that have been brought to them by rescuers in search of refuge. Many of these birds have had their wings cut to the extent that they may never grow back again; others have lost many feathers, probably as a result of having been painted in bright colors by the sellers. The bird refuge requires so much time for love and care that it has been able to provide more jobs for locals. Two workers at La Mariposa have been given full-time jobs as a result of the creation of the animal refute. Now, not only is Nicaragua’s flora and fauna benefiting, but also its people—a success at many levels!
The protection of national species is a vital component in the protection of our entire natural world. The value of this, however, goes beyond scientific importance. We must remember how dreadful a world without trees or animals would be to live in before we over-exploit our resources, remembering the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”