Sunday, December 22, 2002

Jonathan writes this morning about the Common Piping-Guan (Aburria pipile, also known as the Pawi) a rare forest bird once reasonably common in Trinidad's mountains & hills, now reduced to "70–200" individuals, according to an estimate he's just stumbled upon. The Pawi was long considered Trinidad's only endemic bird species, & Jonathan sadly notes that when those last flocks have been shot & devoured, this rara avis will have disappeared from the face of the earth. It probably won't bring him much consolation to know that, according to Richard ffrench (author of the definitive Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago), recent authorities have decided the Trinidad Piping-Guan is the same species as the Blue-throated Piping-Guan of Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia & Paraguay; only "the nominate race is endemic to Trinidad, being glossed purple rather than green, and with largely black crown feathers edged with white."

I'll also quote ffrench's note at the end of his species entry, in which he reveals an unusual tone of exasperation:

"Still hunted, despite official protection. People in the remote districts neither obey nor are forced to obey the game laws. Knowing a flock of 12 guans, they will claim that the species is 'quite common' in that area. Unless a sizeable portion of remote forest is set aside as a reserve, and suitable enforcement of the law provided, this species will become extirpated long before education will affect the attitude of those who hunt it."

What chance does the poor Piping-Guan have, I wonder, when unscrupulous carnivores can dine even on the flesh of the Scarlet Ibis, the national bird, if they know which restaurant to enquire at, & can flash a suitably massive wad of banknotes?

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