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This parrot is on the edge, but there’s hope it won’t be an ‘ex’

PUBLISHED: 10:18 26 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:18 26 August 2017

Bennett Hennessey, executive director of Asociacion Armonia in Bolivia, shows his love for the blue-throated macaw at last weekend's Birdfair at Rutland Water. Picture: DAN BRADBURY/WORLD LAND TRUST

Bennett Hennessey, executive director of Asociacion Armonia in Bolivia, shows his love for the blue-throated macaw at last weekend's Birdfair at Rutland Water. Picture: DAN BRADBURY/WORLD LAND TRUST

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A north Suffolk-based charity’s immense contribution to global nature conservation was illustrated last week with a visit to its headquarters of two leading South American naturalists – and success in its appeal to help prevent a critically endangered macaw becoming an ex-parrot.

Germanico Barrios, of FUNDAECO, Guatemala, left, and Bennett Hennessey, of Asociacion Armonia, Bolivia, discuss conservation at the World Land Trust's headquarters in Halesworth. Picture: JOHN GRANTGermanico Barrios, of FUNDAECO, Guatemala, left, and Bennett Hennessey, of Asociacion Armonia, Bolivia, discuss conservation at the World Land Trust's headquarters in Halesworth. Picture: JOHN GRANT

The hugely effective Halesworth-based World Land Trust funds partner organisations around the world to create and nature reserves and protect habitats and wildlife and its latest success has been raising its target £20,000 to help the Bolivian Asociacion Armonia’s innovative blue-throated macaw project.

Monty Python’s 1970s classic pet shop sketch that featured John Cleese complaining about his “ex-parrot” is now a comedy classic but there is nothing remotely funny about the plight of the blue-throated macaw - it is one of the world’s rarest species.

In spring the World Land Trust’s Bird Race Challenge saw a trust foursome take on another fundraising team in a 24-hour sponsored birdwatch across Norfolk and Suffolk to support the macaw project. Backed by naturalist and broadcaster Bill Oddie, the quirky event recreated the 1980s heydays of competitive birding in East Anglia which raised thousands of pounds for conservation and which regularly featured Mr Oddie. Also supporting the macaw project has been a World Land Trust online auction of unique Bolivian wildlife-inspired ceramics made by artist Maureen Minchin.

The trust announced that its £20,000 target for the project had been reached, with the news coinciding with a visit to the charity’s Blyth House headquarters in Halesworth of Asociacion Armonia’s executive director Bennett Hennessey and fellow South American conservationist Germanico Barrios, of the trust’s partner in Guatemala FUNDAECO.

Both had taken part in last weekend’s massive Birdfair at Rutland Water with the World Land Trust.

Mr Hennessey said the macaws were endemic in two “sub-populations” in Bolivia’s Beni Savanna area, where thousands of trees were cut down each year to create fence-posts for cattle ranches. The birds were dependent on “tree islands” that survived but a sustainable natural fencing project offered long-term hope. In the area’s Barba Azul Reserve, manager Tjalle Boorsma had pioneered the planting of Aliso trees that doubled up as a source of natural fencing for the ranchers and a food source for the macaws.

“This is a sustainable, win-win situation that helps the cattle ranchers and the macaws,” said Mr Hennessey. “There are only between 250 and 350 of these macaws currently left in the wild. There is a general sense that once a species reaches about 700 individuals it is in a safer position but these macaws are emergency birds.”

He paid tribute to the “huge conservation efforts” of World Land Trust and its support for the macaw project.

Mr Barrios also told of the vital importance of his organisation’s close partnership with the trust. FUNDAECO was working with the trust to acquire a “core zone” of his country’s Cerra Santa Cruz Atlantic rainforest and to upgrade its protection.

“Our partnership with the World Land Trust is really well established and we love how the trust works - how they integrate and how they respect and understand the difficult situations and realities in each country they have partners in,” he said.

The Cerra Santa Cruz area was a “really important” rainforest habitat and he was hopeful that acquisitions in the area would soon be complete and its protection guaranteed.

Further information about the World Land Trust can be found at www.worldlandtrust.org/

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