The echo parakeet, aka the Mauritius parakeet, is a parrot found only in Mauritius (an island in the southern Indian Ocean). In fact, it is the only living species of parrot on the Mascarene islands: all others have gone extinct due to human activity. Which is precisely why the echo parakeet is considered one of the most remarkable modern successes of wildlife conservation.
In the 1980s, there were less than a dozen left. A big part of their problem was a lack of suitable nesting trees, from deforestation and general human disturbance, exasperating natural predation and competition. Intervention by biologists has helped: today there are upwards of 300, better than 10, but they’re still technically endangered.
Enter local biologist Laura King: an employee at the Manuels River Hibernia Interpretation Centre in CBS, who will soon be in Mauritius as part of a conservation program that will be the basis of a documentary film. Laura is the only Canadian chosen for this 7-month experience. The other 11 students are from the UK, Australia, and Madagascar.
To prepare, she’s been practicing her scaling skills at local indoor “rock climbing” facility, Wallnuts, because these birds live in nest boxes way way up in tropical trees, which Laura will have to climb to look in on the little feathered fellows.
The program is named The New Noah, and as the name implies, it’s about saving species (the way Noah’s Arc was). Except, instead of carting them away from the end of the world, they use modern scientific techniques and technology to save them, including genetic intervention and captive breeding.
The first few months will be spent in a classroom, learning about various endangered species in the area, and then it’s off to the jungle.