Endangered St. Vincent Amazon parrots in limbo as Barbados Government stonewalls transfer to offshore refuge
Officials at the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary are still waiting for a response from the Barbados Ministry of Environment regarding a proposed transfer of the Sanctuary’s endangered St. Vincent Amazon parrot collection to an offshore location.
Recent break-ins, wildlife poaching and pollution are forcing the Sanctuary to seek temporary safe-haven for the collection. The parrots at Graeme Hall are the national bird of St. Vincent, and the only such population in Barbados.
Earlier this year one of the St. Vincent parrots was found dead after being assaulted by intruders. Unpredictable water quality, security and other factors are major concerns for the internationally-recognized St. Vincent breeding programme in Barbados.
Officials cited international protocols as the reason for asking the Ministry of Environment for guidance. Under international law moving rare species from one country to another must be done in close cooperation with the species’ host country and the country of origin. So far the St. Vincent government has given its recommendation for relocation of the parrots.
“Barbados is the official host to the St. Vincent national bird. They are among the rarest parrots on earth with fewer than 600 living in the wild.” said a spokesperson from the Sanctuary. “Last June we asked Minister (of Environment) Denis Lowe one question: ‘Subject to appropriate national and international regulations, would the Government of Barbados be supportive of temporary relocation of the St. Vincent Parrot population?'”
If the Barbados Ministry of Environment is in favor of allowing the birds to leave Barbadian soil, then permissions may be sought from CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and the destination country agency tasked with administering local and international wildlife regulations.
But there is a possibility that the government of Barbados may consider hosting of the birds as an issue of national interest, and may consider that the retention of the birds on Barbadian soil would be a matter of courtesy to the government of St. Vincent.
“We just don’t know what they (government) want,” said a Sanctuary official.
The Sanctuary and the surrounding Graeme Hall area is recognized as an international wetland of critical importance and a RAMSAR site under the Convention on Wetlands treaty.
The owner of the Sanctuary, Mr. Peter Allard, has made formal allegations that Barbados has illegally dumped tens of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the wetland instead of using the approved emergency sewerage discharge structure at Worthing Beach, allegedly violating international environmental treaty conditions and Barbados’ environmental protection laws.
Since 1994 Mr. Allard has invested more than $35 million (US) in the 35-acre Sanctuary to preserve the last significant mangrove woodland and wetland on the island.