Avian Expert Articles

Lafeber’s Global Parrot Conservation Spotlight: Timneh Grey Parrots in Sierra Leone, Africa

Timneh greys (Psittacus timneh) are found in parts of west Africa such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, and Côte d’Ivoire. Exact numbers are unknown (estimated 100,000-500,000), but they are decidedly decreasing due to trapping and habitat loss, the usual challenges for parrot conservation.

It was only 10 years ago (2012) that Timneh greys were recognized as a unique and separate species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, by 2016, Timnehs were considered endangered on the IUCN Red List and, in 2017, the Timneh was listed on CITES Appendix I (most endangered).

The World Parrot Trust (WPT) summarizes that hundreds of thousands of Timnehs have been heavily traded on the international market, with at least 77% habitat loss. It’s even more serious when nesting ranges become this limited, reducing their genetic strength and opportunity.

During 2021-2022, the WPT has continued developing several important conservation activities focused in Sierra Leone. First, 239 people in 70 communities were surveyed to develop knowledge, discern attitudes, and learn about the distribution and abundance of the Timnehs. By listening to local communities and leveraging local ecological knowledge, WPT has been able to build a picture of seasonal movements and identify roost and nesting areas throughout the region. This has highlighted the vital importance of mangrove areas and built a strong case for protection of several key sites.

Discovery of Largest Roost Offers Hope

One roost that was identified during this work holds several hundred parrots and is the largest known roost for the species on the African mainland. This was an extremely exciting finding and suggests that in some remote areas, Timneh populations may still be relatively healthy. However numerous threats including trapping of adults and the collection of eggs have been identified. This can only get worse as land is further developed. Protection of these remote sites is essential!

In addition, WPT held numerous meetings to bring local leaders, community members, conservationists, and government officials together to discuss the actions needed to conserve and protect Timneh parrots. Billboards were raised at strategic locations to communicate how important it is to protect this unique species. WPT also identified 45 community parrot “monitors” who they will work with going forward to reinforce conservation messages and develop community-based initiatives to protect key nesting and roosting sites.

Lastly, a radio jingle and announcement communicating positive messages about parrot conservation has been regularly played on local radio stations. These have been accompanied by live radio interviews with government officials answering questions about the need to protect Timneh parrots. These type of activities must continue and be regularly reinforced to be successful.

Lafeber’s $500 GLOBAL PARROT conservation grant this month goes to the World Parrot Trust and the efforts led by Dr. Rowan Martin to protect the Timneh greys. You can also help! To make a tax-deductible donation, go to: https://www.parrots.org/donate. Earmark your donation specifically for Timneh African grey conservation and research.

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