American Bird Conservancy Seeks to Save Emerald Hummingbird Habitat March 25, 2005

The Honduran Emerald is a hummingbird that is endemic to a small area of dry forest in Honduras. Its total world population is less than 200 individuals. Its habitat is being destroyed for farming and ranching.

I recently received this email from George Wallace, the Vice President for International Programs at the American Bird Conservancy:

Hi Victor,

Just thought I would drop you a line to find out how your trips to the Honduran Emerald area in the Aguan Valley went, or are going, and to update you on ABC's efforts on behalf of the Honduran Emerald.

As you know, ABC is a leader of an initiative called the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE, AZE is an alliance of 38 conservation NGOs dedicated to identifying and protecting sites for the world's most imperiled species. AZE has identified 575 sites world-wide that are irreplaceable for Critically Endangered and Endangered (following IUCN criteria) species restricted entirely, or almost entirely, to single sites. In addition to playing a leadership role in AZE as a whole, ABC wants to lead the way on conserving AZE sites in the Americas that have been identified for the presence of high priority bird species.

The Aguan Valley in the vicinity of Arenal is the site selected for the Honduran Emerald. Out of 70,000 acres of tropical dry forest that used to be in this valley, less than 5,000 acres remain and they are highly fragmented, but they constitute the most important areas for the Emerald which is listed as Critically Endangered. You undoubtedly know all of this, but it serves as a lead up to explain why we have been funding Fundación Pico Bonito's (FUPNAPIB) Ricardo ("Fito") Steiner, who I believe is helping with your trips, since June 2004. The idea is to provide FUPNAPIB with funding so they can afford to devote some real staff time to the Honduran Emerald conservation issue and make headway on conservation actions on the ground, leading hopefully to the creation of a protected area for the Emerald. One initial task has been to get access to some of the World Bank funds left behind by the temporary defunct road project there to get protection started on the Honduran Air Force land known as El Poligono, one of the most important sites for the emerald and one that should no doubt serve as the core for a protected area for the species. This was no small feat, but over a period of months FUPNAPIB was able to get an agreement with SOPTRAVI to fence the Poligono and begin monitoring/guarding of the site. Fito has also been working tirelessly to promote the agreement on the table between the Air Force and SOPTRAVI that would designate the Poligono as a protected area for the Emerald. This is a lengthy bureaucratic process and it has not yet been signed.

We have been supporting FUPNAPIB out of our "rainy day" fund, because we feel that time is of the essence and we wanted to get something going fast, but we have recently received a scoping grant from the Global Conservation Fund at Conservation International to support this effort. There is an extensive laundry list of planning activities supported under that grant which I won't go into. There is a lot to do, and it is a moderately complex situation.

The most critical step though is to identify tracts for acquisition and buy them. These lands, together with the Honduran Air Force land, would make up a protected area managed by FUPNAPIB for the Emerald. We have a donor who has pledged $35,000 in support of land acquisition, depending on our ability to match it, and we are very interested in making contact with other donors who would like to support conservation efforts for the emerald. There is some urgency to this since land prices will go up dramatically when the road project returns. Even now, prices are on the rise with rumors of interest in a protected area. We need to strike soon to set a land price precedent.

Very best,


George E. Wallace, PhD

Vice President for International Programs

American Bird Conservancy

4249 Loudoun Avenue

P.O. Box 249

The Plains, VA 20198 USA

Tel: 540-253-5780

Fax: 540-253-5782