New Conservation Opportunities for Threatened Bolivian Birds

Royal Cinclodes. Photo: Valère Claverie
Royal Cinclodes. Photo: Valère Claverie

A team of biologists, supported by ABC, has made important new discoveries of populations of the Royal Cinclodes and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant in the cordillera of Apolobamba in Bolivia. The critically endangered Royal Cinclodes was previously known primarily from highly fragmented Polylepis forests in the Andes of southeastern Peru, with an estimated global population of just 50-250 individuals. Only a few sporadic records of the species had been documented in Bolivia, in the Polylepis forests of the upper watersheds of Madidi National Park. The first sighting dates back to 1876, with more than a century passing before the second record in 1997. A few additional records came in 2002, at Cotapata National Park. The endangered Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant, meanwhile, was virtually unknown in Bolivia, with only three previous records from the Cordillera de La Paz.


In 2003, ornithologist Isabel Gomez of the Bolivian Fauna Collection began searching for additional Royal Cinclodes populations, yielding some encouraging results. In 2005, Gomez and Professor Kazuya Naoki of the Ecology Institute at Universidad Mayor de San Andres, La Paz, teamed up with American Bird Conservancy to expand their work looking for both the cinclodes and the tit-tyrant.


Through the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, American Bird Conservancy was able to fund a new study by Gomez’s team of the Polylepis forests in the northern Titicaca Lake basin, and the Cordilleras of La Paz and Apolobamba. Their research uncovered a total of 33 forest patches (an increase of 29), eight of which have since been identified as supporting Royal Cinclodes populations (compared to only one previously known). The team has also verified the presence of Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrants at 28 sites in 15 forests, containing up to 300 individuals or nearly one-third of the global population.


Thanks to new funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation aimed at sustaining biodiversity in key protected areas of the Andes-Amazon region, American Bird Conservancy is now continuing its partnership with Gomez and Naoki to begin implementation of conservation measures in the region. The project began with detailed mapping of the Polylepis forest and key biodiversity areas within the nearly 100,000 acres of land owned by the Keara and Puina indigenous communities. It is now working to protect the imperiled forests in this area by implementing community-based conservation activities and providing more than 400 people with new technologies, such as fuel-efficient stoves that dramatically reduce the demand for Polylepis trees as firewood. Similar techniques have been used to improve Polylepis forest protection in Peru. Contact American Bird Conservancy for more information.