By Mauricio Velasquez
For those that don´t know, the city of Guayaquil has a symbolic bird, its most distinguished brand, the Guayaquil Macaw. It is a sub species of the Great Green Macaw that is endemic to the coast of Ecuador. The distribution range of the population is very reduced and it is in danger of going extinct. This grave state is caused by the high deforestation rate of dry tropical forest and its continued burning to ¨clear the land¨ to carry out unsustainable agricultural practices. The macaws are captured for their illegal commercialization and they are often sold in both local and international markets. All of these factors have the bird symbol of Guayaquil against the ropes as we say in boxing terms and at the point of a fatal end. It is estimated that only 30 to 40 individuals currently remain in their natural state.
The progress of Guayaquil destines them to die. Nobody is unaware of the urban growth in the coastal highway, where besides the housing developments that surround the Chongon Cordillera, are also found countless mine quarries that diminish the area of the forest in its hills. Sites where our symbolic bird lives. If it wasn´t enough, the connectivity of the macaw´s habitat will be also lost for a project that is working silently and plans to construct a new periphery highway in Guayaquil through the western boundary of the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest and cut the biological corridor linking Cerro Blanco with the Chongon and Colonche Protected Forest.
In 2005, the National Conservation Strategy in situ for the Guayaquil Macaw¨ was promulgated. In the same year, the Municipality of Guayaquil issued an ordinance that declared this animal ¨the natural bird symbol of the canton¨ in addition to being the flagship species for dry tropical forest conservation programs within the boundaries of the canton. Later, a inter institutional work group was formed (where, although it sounds strange now, the Ministry of the Environment and the Municipality worked together) to initiate conservation actions, among them, the signing of a cooperation agreement between the Municipality of Guayaquil and the Pro-Forest Foundation to:
- Consolidate the Declaratory of the Protection of the Guayaquil Macaw (Ara ambiguus guayaquilensis) through the monitoring of the state of the populations.
- Elaborate a Forest Fire Prevention Plan.
- Reintroduce and monitor individuals of the Guayaquil Macaw (Ara ambiguus guayaquilensis) born in captivity in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest.
- Train professionals in the management of natural protected areas.
- Implement conservation activities for wildlife through the strengthening of wildlife rescue centers.
However, the year after the signing of the agreement (2009) the head of Environmental Planning in the Municipality of Guayaquil and its Environment Director, changed their priorities for action and let this important conservation initiative wilt, sentencing in this way, the destiny of the species.
Despite this, the Pro-Forest Foundation, one of the last Mohicans of conservation in Guayaquil continues practically alone in its efforts to prevent the extinction of the Macaw and has carried out reforestation efforts in more than 250 hectares in Cerro Blanco with 35 native tree species, many of these plants have fruits that constitute the food base of the symbol of Guayaquil in its natural habitat. Although this work is important, it does not guarantee that the macaw won´t go extinct.
As a Guayaquileño, I´d like a consultation to be made to the citizens of Guayaquil in which they are asked if they are in agreement that the extinction of the Guayaquil Macaw is carried out. And at the same time, this consultation also is made with the principal national, provincial and local environmental authorities.
The first step in order to act is recognizing the problem and really we are not doing anything to prevent Guayaquil from losing its natural symbol.