Why do you want to kill our national bird?

Puerto Rican ParrotRecently it was announced that there are plans to make a Puerto Rican quarter, a continuation of the widely popular state quarters series that everybody is collecting. One of the designs includes the Coqui and the Puerto Rican Parrot (Cotorra Puertorriqueñas, Amazona vittata), both are national symbols of Puerto Rico.

I point this out to make it very clear. We all celebrate, honor, and cherish our tree frog, Eleutherodactylus coqui. While the Coqui is the animal symbol for our nation, the Puerto Rican Parrot is our national bird.

While there used to be a million of these beautiful birds roaming free in Puerto Rico during the 19th century, it is now one of the birds under greatest threat of extinction. One of the few places this bird still exists is in El Yunque, National Rainforest. The other is in Rio Abajo. Scientists are actively working to keep this species alive by breeding and releasing birds into the wild. Two such biologists are Miguel A. Acevedo and Luis J. Villanueva-Rivera. As part of their work, they have launched a website to help locate and track endangered species in Puerto Rico. The website www.eBirdPR.org allows registered users to submit data of sightings of endangered birds.

El Yunque

Beyond being one of the jewels of Puerto Rico, El Yunque, the Caribbean National Forest, is especially suited to host the Puerto Rican Parrot. As one of the largest forests in Puerto Rico, it should be expected that this national treasure (El Yunque) has many of the 60 different species of trees that produce the main diet for the parrot.

The challenge, however, is that the remaining parts of this forest are relatively young. Therefore, many of the trees are not big enough to be suitable nesting grounds for the parrot. In addition, the rapid destruction of the trees and forest that we still have is also reducing the potential habitit that the parrots can use in the future. So any additional threat (reduction) to El Yunque is a direct threat against our national bird, the Puerto Rican Parrot.

Shock, Horror, Disgust

So this week when I learned that we (Puerto Ricans) want to purchase 300 acres around El Yunque to extend the Corredor del Este (Route 66), it makes me want to puke. In our virulent greed for more business, more profits, more cars, more crap we don't need, more cement, more pollution, and more expansion, we are willing to endanger our national bird. Let me simplify this even more. Because we want to be able to drive faster between Rio Grande and San Juan we are willing to place further pressure on our endangered national bird. Usually, when I'm shocked like this I'll recognize each side of the argument concerning an issue, but there is just nothing worth committing genocide. Doing anything to further threaten the Puerto Rican Parrot is non-negotiable. In my humble opinion, when a society threatens to destroy the very symbols that represent it's identity, then that society is very close to destroying itself.