Protecting Vernal Hanging Parrots through ecotourism

posted in: Conservation, Parrots | 0

In a paper published in BirdingAsia, Kittipon Bouranasompop and Robert DeCandido describe how ecotourism helped reduce bird trapping in an area bordering the Kaeng Krachan National Park in western Thailand.

Every year, from mid-November to February, flocks of birds descend on the fruit orchard bordering the park to feast on the ripening chikus (Manilkara zapota) (below left). To protect his fruits from the birds, the farmer traps the birds and sells them to middlemen for resale in Bangkok and elsewhere.

The most common species is the Vernal Hanging Parrot (Loriculus vernalis) (above right). On a good day it is possible to view about 30 or so of these parrots from a distance of about 6-8m in the orchard. And there is no need to sit in a hide as the birds are relatively tame. However, outside the orchard these parrots are high up in the forest canopy where it is difficult to photograph.

Others birds include:
1. Laughingthrushes – Lesser Necklaced (Garrulax monileger) and Greater Necklaced (G. pectoralis),
2. Golden-fronted Leafbird (Chloropsis aurifrons),
3. Sunbirds – Crimson (Aethopyga siparaja), Orange-bellied (Dicaeum trigonostigma) and Scarlet-backed (D. cruentatum),
4. Thick-billed Flowerpeckers (D. agile),
5. Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra),
6. Bulbuls, including Black- crested (Pycnonotus melanicterus), Stripe-throated (P. finlaysoni) and Streak-eared (P. blanfordi).

Trapping involves placing a male of the target species in a cage near the fruits. Rival males and curious females will then fly to the cage. Flowerpeckers are caught using perches covered with glue while leafbirds are trapped when they land on a ‘trick’ perch that snaps the trap shut. For the Hanging Parrots, mist nets are used.

The birds provide an income of around US$125 per season for the farmer. It is possible to trap 30-50 Vernal Hanging Parrots, selling at $1.75 each. These parrots fetch up to $7.50 each in the bird market. Flowerpeckers are sold at $1.75 each while the rare male leafbirds bring in four times as much. At the same time the farmer can still harvest half his fruits for sale.

During the November 2009-February 2010 season, with the help of Kittipon, a conservation project was started. A feeding station was set up providing chiku, papaya and water. For an entrance fee of $3.25, a photograph can stay as long as he wishes and even sample some of the fruits (left). The earnings were slightly more than the amount the farmer can get by selling trapped birds, proving that it is viable for conservation to coexist with ecotourism.

Check out this website for more details.

Kittipon Bouranasompop & Robert DeCandido
February 2012

Kittipon Bouranasompop and Robert DeCandido, 2011. Fruit orchids, farmers and birds: protecting the Vernal Hanging Parrot Loriculus vernalis of Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand. BirdingAsia, 15: 52-57.

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