Cape Parrot research in South Africa and BirdLife South Africa (Birdlife SA) have received an important boost from retailer Woolworths. This is through the sale of a Cape Parrot bag as some of the proceeds from the sale will be channeled to research.

Professor Colleen Downs, Chair of the Cape Parrot Working Group (CPWG) and contributor to the annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day for the past 20 years, thanked BirdLife SA and Woolworths for this support and publicity for the endangered species. Next year will be the 21st annual Cape Parrot Big Birding Day which involves the public in documenting the birds they see.

She encouraged the public to support research to protect Cape Parrots through the purchase of the bags which are ideal for Christmas gift-wrapping or for use just as carry bags. Downs also credited designers Mr Athol Moult and Ms Di Botha for the beautiful designs they produced.

This initiative is part of Woolworths’ Good Business Journey, and supports BirdLife SA’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Programme (IBA). From the sale of each bag Woolworths donates R10 to Birdlife SA.

Funds raised will go towards helping to protect and secure some of the last remaining habitats of the Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). The Parrots depend on mature Afromontane Yellowwood forest for most of their diet and nesting sites; now less than 2% of all South African landscapes comprise of natural forest and only a small proportion of those are Afromontane Yellowwood forests.

Habitat fragmentation and loss continue through human over-utilisation and degradation, further fragmenting the Cape Parrot’s already disjointed habitat. Researchers are working on identifying and protecting IBAs for the Parrots, especially three key IBAs in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Fewer than 1 600 Cape Parrots have been recorded in the wild; they also face the threat of illegal hunting and capture, and increasing disease concerns as their habitat disappears.

Funds raised through the sale of these bags will help safeguard remaining patches of Cape Parrot habitat and support next year’s Cape Parrot Big Birding Day, an annual census event.

In 2015, researchers in Pietermaritzburg’s School of Life Sciences published a paper about the Cape Parrot. That paper gained international attention due to its conclusion that the Poicephalus robustus parrot should be conferred the status of a full species. The subsequent reclassification is an important contribution to improving the species’ conservation priority and enabling the planning of conservation management strategies.

Words: Christine Cuénod