Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 212526333
Ensuring operations to continue national efforts to save the endangered Venezuelan Red Siskin
The endangered Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus)
The Red Siskin once ranged across northern South America, from Cucuta, Colombia through northern Venezuela, to Trinidad. Currently, it persists in just three small populations in Venezuela, one extending into Colombia, and one in Guyana. In Venezuela, threats to red siskins have been recognized since at least 1944, when its hunting and sale was banned; this was strengthened in 1995 with its designation as “Endangered Species”. Unfortunately, due to enforcement challenges, this measure boosted the bird’s market value abroad. The IUCN assessed the status of the species since 1952 as Endangered. The main historic threat to the species has been its capture as decoration and for the pet trade, especially for cross-breeding with canaries to produce red factor canaries. Red siskins have also been included in Appendix I of CITES since 1975. Other regulations led to a reduction of imports into the US, Europe, and Australia. Now red siskins are legally bred in all of these locations, while their original populations in Venezuela are on the brink of extinction.
The Red Siskin Initiative: building opportunities to save endangered songbirds from extinction and restore threatened ecosystems.
In the Red Siskin Initiative (RSI, www.redsiskin.org) we use a carefully selected flagship species focus to protect and restore endangered forest ecosystems and foster sustainable livelihoods. RSI will achieve this vision using a transparent, multi-stakeholder approach, involving all who care about and interact with the Red Siskin in some way, using creative partnerships and the latest scientific, management, and planning tools.
This strategy has guided the Initiative to work over 5 key pillars to achieve the recovery of self-sustaining populations of Red Siskins across their natural historical distribution: research, threat reduction, captive breeding, reintroduction, and habitat protection and restoration, including biodiversity-friendly agroforestry, such as shade coffee. It consists of 5 general objectives, 24 specific objectives and 88 activities. To date, we have completed 26% of the activities, and 15% more are currently in development.
Major achievements include the construction of the first Red Siskin Conservation Center (RSCC) in Venezuela (2019) where we have already received birds from authorities after confiscation of illegal trade, and also contributions from a local breeder. We have also, secured the preservation of more than 300 hectares of tropical dry forest in northern Venezuela, habitat of the RS, through the implementation of coffee agroforestry practices, thanks to the capacitation and technical assistance to more than 40 coffee producers; who obtained the international organic certification and 13 also Bird Friendly certification of their plots in 2019.
As part of our research on the sustainable use of the species and traffic reduction, we have been building alliances with national and international breeders, which has led us to create a network entitled Red Siskin´s Network of Specialists and Aviculturists (ReSSAN), which aims to promote only sustainable use (Sanchez-Mercado et al., 2019; Cardozo et al., in prep).
Ensuring the Red Siskin Initiative operations on a challenging context
The 2020 was a complex year for many conservation programs, and for the RSI was no different. The COVID pandemic severely impacted our performance for submitting funding proposals because many of the potential funders changed their priorities. Also, the complex socio-economic situation in Venezuela deepened causing a significant increase in the costs of our activities.
The objectives proposed in this proposal are: 1) Ensure core coordination activities of the Red Siskin Initiative; 2) Maintain operations of the first Red Siskin Conservation Center (RSCC) which includes maintenance and technical staff for rescuing birds confiscated from IWT; and 3) Continue efforts to reduce one of the main threats to the Red Siskin: harvest of wild specimens for IWT.
Objective 1 will allow us to sustain core staff salaries in Venezuela for program coordination and communications. Activities include logistics, coordination, and communication; supervision of rescue, IWT reduction, and habitat protection projects: preparation of funding proposals and reports; and internal and external stakeholder management (through weekly meetings, website maintenance, visits, calls, newsletters, etc.).
Objective 2 addresses the need to ensure the functioning of the RSCC core facility, which requires regular maintenance and the presence of a Bird Curator and a technical adviser, to monitor the health, maintenance, and breeding of rescued birds.
Finally, Objective 3 will allow us to strengthen our ongoing assessment of consumer behavior and motivations to design a behavior change campaign to reduce the demand for wild Red Siskins among the Venezuelan avicultural community.
Project 212526333 location - Venezuela, South America