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Saving the Iquitos Gnatcatcher

By Paromita Pain - 21 Dec 2010 11:45:1 GMT
Saving the Iquitos Gnatcatcher

Gnatcatcher Image © Steve Byland

The Iquitos Gnatcatcher is the latest addition to the gnatcatcher family. And that's not all. This is a new addition to scientific knowledge about birds as well. Discovered very recently in 2005, it is known to be found in only the 143,500-acre Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve forests of Peru. It's probable that only perhaps fewer than 50 pairs exist.

Their limited range estimated at less than 8 square miles or roughly 4,950 acres currently rank them as critically endangered under the IUCN-World Conservation Union criteria. Deforestation in its natural habitat remains its greatest threat.

A new and enthusiastic conservation approach may do much to improve its numbers. Twenty-nine privately owned properties totalling 1,196 acres within the Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve are home to the Iquitos Gnatcatcher.

In a move that won approbation the world over, private land owners owning land within this reserve forest have sold this to conservationists who have then donated them SERNANP, the government agency that administers national protected areas.

Protecting wildlife

“This Reserve is one of the most important places for birds in Peru, supporting a community of 19 white sand forest specialists, and is the only home for the Critically Endangered Iquitos Gnatcatcher,” said Dr. Daniel Lebbin, Conservation Biologist with American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the U.S. bird conservation organization and one of the key supporters of the acquisitions.

The move will help all wildlife within its confines. This reserve forest, about 15 miles away from the city of Iquitos in northern Peru, protect rare white-sand forests which in turn are home to rare and unique plants and animals.

Supported by ABC (American Bird Conservancy), ConocoPhillips (integrated energy company based in the US), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, ProNaturaleza (a leading Peruvian conservation organization) purchased the land from willing sellers in the eastern portion of the Reserve where Iquitos Gnatcatchers live.

To say the least, the donation of the areas means better protection for its wildlife and rare flora. While the forests were declared a reserved zone in 2004, much of the land within the protected areas remained privately owned. This meant continued timber extraction, charcoal production, and agriculture related activities that are causing grievous harm to the habitat for its threatened wildlife.