Two RSI team members from Provita, Ada Sanchez-Mercado and Jhonathan Miranda, arrived in the US in July asSmithsonian Research Fellows. Both visits were supported by the Round-up forConservation Fund of the Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ). Ada spent her visit leading the creation of a formal Red Siskin Recovery Plan for the Red Siskin Initiative, organizing research on how Red Siskin recovery planning can advance new IUCN Green Listing methods, finishing research on unsustainable harvest, and analyzing distance sampling data.
Jhonathan digitized field data, finished a manuscript on the recent rediscovery of the long-lost Tachira Antpitta (Grallaria chthonia), and began work on a publication on the population ecology of Red Siskins both in-situ and ex-situ. Their 5-week visit was split between the Rock Creek and Front Royalcampuses of the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (SNZP&CBI), and was supported by many collaborating staff from both locations, to whom RSI is very grateful.
On June 9, RSI joined Café Arábica and over 80 guests for the exhibit: “The free flight of the Red Siskin,” comprised of original photos of Red Siskins in their natural habitat. All were taken by Jhonathan Miranda, RSI field ornithologist, during his RSI fieldwork.
Provita’s President, Jon Paul Rodriguez, opened with words of welcome, describing RSI efforts to restore wild populations. Jhonathan then talked about the Red Siskin’s behavior and ecology and shared exciting and harrowing stories of fieldwork adventures. Luis Arrieta presented RSI’s “Birds and Coffee” project, describing the close connection between the coffee aroma surrounding guests in Café Arabica and the Red Siskins in Jhonathan’s photographs. A tasting session followed with coffee varieties from Piedra de Cachimbo, where the project is based, and Red Siskin Special Edition chocolate, which is produced by Mantuano Chocolate in partnership with Café Arábica, and well-known Venezuelan fashionista Titina Penzini.
RSI-USCAFE field specialist, Pablo Lau, gave a talk about migratory bird conservation through shade coffee cultivation at a symposium hosted by Universidad Central de Venezuela on May 12. This celebration of World Migratory Bird Day highlighted the importance of Venezuela to bird migration in the Western Hemisphere, and included talks from researchers and students across the country. Pablo noted, “Two agroforestry systems in the Neotropics, coffee and cacao, support much higher biodiversity than crops without tree cover, and enhancing these systems can preserve habitats for migratory avifauna”. Pablo has documented 231 bird species to date in the study area, of which seven are northern hemisphere migrants.
The Red Siskin was also represented at a World Migratory Bird Day celebration in the US, hosted by Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington DC. Even though the Red Siskin is likely an altitudinal rather than a latitudinal migrant, it shares something else with some long-distance migrants: it is endangered because of illegal trade and habitat loss.
Kate Rodríguez-Clark presented a variety of entertaining RSI activities with help from NZP volunteers and artists, including face-painting, comic-book and origami-making for all ages, and selfie props with messages like #SaveTheRedSiskin and#CardenalitoPaRato. We were thrilled to attract a large and bilingual crowd! Thanks to FONZ (particularly Kirstin Hill) for all their help making Kate’s first-ever public outreach activity at the zoo fun and successful. Bilingual FONZ volunteers Sarah Wyatt and Caitlin Starks also provided much-appreciated support.
In April, we also celebrated the Day of the Coffee Grower at Piedra de Cachimbo in northern Venezuela, where we are working toward Smithsonian Bird Friendly Coffee® certification with support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Fund. This project, called USCAFE, protects and expands agroforestry and natural habitat for Red Siskins, migratory species and other birds, increases profits for farmers, and strengthens traditional shade cultivation of coffee.
The day was a great success, with over 100 community members gathering to celebrate traditional livelihoods and cultural heritage. Schoolchildren opened the day with dances accompanied by Venezuelan folk music. Then “Birds and Coffee” project field technician,Luis Arrieta, with Provita team members Valentina Cedeño, Silvia Gómez, Ingrid Zager, Adriana Pizzi, and Carlos Peláez gave a few words of welcome. Linsabel Noguera, from La Rana Encantada, continued with storytelling and a session of bird-inspired origami.
Cecilio Monterrey, a local coffee farmer, then demonstrated a traditional coffee roasting technique, followed by a coffee tasting. Guests sampled varieties from Miranda and Trujillo states, under the guidance of David Ibañez, Cristian Gallo and Luis Doradofrom the Academia de Baristas in Maracay, Venezuela. To close the day, children played “bird-bingo”, created with birds of the Piedra de Cachimbo region. Players won coloring books and sweets while at the same time learning more about local Venezuelan wildlife. We look forward to repeating El Día del Caficultor in 2019!
In April, Parque Zoológico y Botánico Bararida (Barquisimeto, Venezuela) organized a special weekend to celebrate Earth Day. The event highlighted species threatened with extinction, including the Red Siskin. Most attendees were students, who were eager to learn about Bararida’s conservation work in Venezuela.
We particularly value the contributions of Leonel Ovalle, Dulce Quero, Reinaldo Jiménez and many community service students, and thank them for their support to the day’s activities and for their commitment to help save Venezuelan biodiversity.
The Aviary Life magazine featured the RSI in its issue 2018 the article “Aviculture and threatened species, finding a way forward”. It highlights the meeting among a group of aviculturist representatives – Sam Davis, Gary Fitt, Graeme Phipps, Steve Sass and Simon Dehengard- and the Acting Threatened Species Commissioner (TSC) in Canberra – Australia, to raise awareness of the viability for private breeders to contribute actively to conservation of endangered species. Sam Davis, spoke of the desire for aviculture to engage with recovery efforts; and referred particularly to the Smithsonian-led RSI as an example of a program that seeks to engage private aviculturists as allies to apply conservation efforts and actions more efficiently.
The Jardines Ecológicos Topotepuy team invited us to promote the Red Siskin Initiative on their special Sunday family activities. We were thrilled to take them up on their invitation on February 25th, where we had an ecological stand offering RSI-themed items like our coffee chocolate bar, as well as t-shirts and accessories. We projected a short video about the RSI team members, had Red Siskin origami activities for the children, and Miguel Arvelo, our RSI coordinator in Venezuela gave a talk about RSI conservation efforts in Venezuela. We enjoyed meeting many curious visitors and showing them the Initiative’s work, and received many positive comments in return. Thanks to Topotepuy for the invitation and the team that made this an unforgettable day!
In 2017 the Global Wildlife Conservation Initiative “Search for Lost Species” traced the stories of ten rediscoveries of lost species announced this year. In their annual summary of successful stories, they mentioned the RSI team, highlighting the rediscovery of the species Grallaria chtonia, known as the Táchira Anttpita, which has been feared extinct since 1956. This highlights the RSI’s breadth in conservation, and our ability to help, not only the Red Siskin, but also of other species threatened with extinction.
The Search for Lost Species noted: “The team traveled by foot on steep and narrow Andean trails in the dark to reach the bird’s habitat by dawn, when team members heard the distinctive song of an antpitta they had never heard before.” The initiative will continue in 2018 with several expeditions to find and protect the 25 “most wanted” species, and the Global Wildlife Conservation Initiative will continue to publicize stories of rediscoveries from around the world. You can learn more about the rediscovery this year, click here.
This news was also highlighted within the framework of the award ceremony for the photographic contest “Aves de Venezuela“. In this event Jhonathan Miranda, an RSI field biologist, gave a talk about the rediscovery of the Tachira Anttpita. Jhonathan was part of the organizing team for Aves de Venezuela, in which 102 people submitted 326 photos for the jury’s evaluation, far exceeding organizer expectations. The award ceremony was great fun and well-attended by ornithologists, birders and the general public. The event was a great example of how RSI team members and collaborators amplify our collective achievements. Congratulations! In the following links we share Jhonathan’s talk: Part 1, part 2 and part 3.
In its November 2017 edition, the magazine “Nuestros Pájaros” of the Confederación Ornitológica Española (COE) published a very complete article about the RSI written by Miguel Arvelo, Jesús Morales and Valentina Cedeño. Thanks to Roberto Jurado, who contacted us through our website, the Spanish public had the opportunity to learn more about the Red Siskin initiative. This link has an excerpt of the article we welcome you to explore.