With September being celebrated as Heritage Month to mark South Africa’s diverse culture and heritage, ponder the plight of the endangered Cape parrot whose green and gold plumage must surely remind us of our national sporting teams.
Out in the wild, the beautiful bird may not be trained to scream “Go Bokke, Go Bokke!” when the Springboks play in the Rugby World Cup in France. But in their natural forest habitat, the Cape parrot’s chirps and squeaks can really make you ‘feel the love’.
The Cape parrot is endemic to South Africa, and due to the destruction of their natural forest environment, there are fewer than 2 000 of the species.
This Heritage Month is an appropriate time to honour the heritage of the Cape parrot by helping to preserve their habitat, while fostering sustainable development and environmental resilience in South Africa.
The adult female Cape parrot is more colourful than the male, which is rare in the bird world. The males lose their vivid orange forehead patch as they become older, although both juveniles and females have it.
Dr Kirsten Wimberger, project director for the Cape Parrot Project and a trustee of the Wild Bird Trust, says: “What better way to celebrate our heritage than to encourage businesses to assist in the preservation of the Cape parrot’s habitat?
“The Cape parrot is strongly associated with yellowwood forests, which the founding father of democratic South Africa Nelson Mandela adored. The Cape parrot depends on the yellowwood, South Africa’s national tree. The birds nest in the hollow of yellowwood trees, they roost communally in yellowwood forests, and their preferred meal is the tough kernel of their fruits.
“Through research and habitat restoration initiatives, the Cape Parrot Project seeks to conserve the Cape parrot, and community involvement is seen as a crucial component of their future success.”
South Africa’s forests not only provide a refuge for biodiversity but also play a crucial role in climate regulation, water provision and soil conservation. However, deforestation, habitat degradation and illegal logging pose severe threats to these delicate ecosystems. Without immediate action, the Cape parrot and its habitat face an uncertain future.
The Cape Parrot Project has partnered with local communities in and around Hogsback to create a Green Economy project that sources funding and support to build community nurseries where members, predominantly women, receive training and skills development to germinate and grow indigenous seedlings that are, in turn, purchased by the project for restoration work. Currently, 50 people are working as growers, while a further 27 people work directly on restoration sites.
“The recently launched MyForest Campaign is focused on forest restoration, such as alien vegetation management, planting trees and restoring habitat. The team is concentrating this year’s efforts on rehabilitating an additional 15ha of crucial Cape parrot habitat.
“The Wild Bird Trust is looking for support if you want to change the life of the Cape parrot during Heritage Month. An appeal is made to organisations and individuals to contribute toward the R3 million needed to restore the Cape parrot’s habitat.
“Cape parrot merchandise, such as educational books and crocheted toys, will also be on sale through the Wild Bird Trust e-store,” says Dr Wimberger.
She adds that the MyForest Campaign takes on particular significance in September, which is also celebrated as Arbour Month and highlights the value and importance of trees and forests.
“This is a time to plant trees with the aim of raising awareness and paying special attention to our environment and the role trees play in it,” concludes Dr Wimberger.