MBiolSci Zoology – University of Sheffield, UK, 2008
Rebecca is working with Chester Zoo to help direct the future of the Ecuador Amazon parrot (Amazona lilacina) project, determining the main areas of conservation need for this Endangered species (IUCN, 2014). Ecuador Amazon parrots have played a part in the Chester Zoo Collection Plan since 1982 when a group of over 150 arrived in Europe, after being illegally trapped and exported for the pet trade. The zoo’s CEO, Dr Mark Pilgrim, has also coordinated the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme (EEP) for this species since 1991.
I graduated in Zoology and began working for Chester Zoo in 2008. I am a conservationist with a broad range of interests, but in particular the complex relationships between humans and wildlife and what we can do to mitigate the problems this can cause.
I started working with this charismatic species in 2012 when part of my job role was to advise on the management of the EEP. The Ecuador Amazon had been newly identified as a full species following research undertaken by Dr Mark Pilgrim (CEO) for his PhD.
Between 2012 and 2016 we carried out field surveys to gain information on the parrot’s range and population size. We worked with the IUCN Red List to reclassify the species as Endangered (previously Least Concern) on the grounds that there were only 600 - 1700 individuals left. It became clear that the parrots were relying on a number of highly threatened habitats to survive, including mangrove and dry forests, which are severely impacted by human activities.
In 2013 we developed a new partnership with Ecuadorian NGO, Fundacion Pro Bosque, and set up a research and monitoring programme in the Cerro Blanco Dry Forest, to gain more information about the basic ecology of the species. My current research is a continuation of this. I am working with local bird experts, NGOs and communities to identify the full distribution and range; to assess habitat preferences within this range; to monitor roost size and asses seasonal fluctuations; and finally to assess the level of local trade. This information will help us to assess the health of the population and guide our actions to support these beautiful birds in the wild.
Dr Martin Jones (School of Science and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University)
Professor Stuart Marsden (School of Science and the Environment, Manchester Metropolitan University)
Dr Mark Pilgrim (Chester Zoo)