Author Archives: Maria

RSI expands to a total of 5 zoos!
05 Jun

RSI expands to a total of 5 zoos!

Two new partners’ zoos have joined the RSI in 2019. Brevard Zoo in Melbourne Florida and National Aviary in Pittsburg Pennsylvania have or will soon receive Red Siskins for exhibit from SCBI and the Avian Preservation and Education Conservancy (APEC). Also in Florida, the Zoo Miami Red Siskin exhibit continues to grow with a new donation of more birds from APEC. We are delighted to welcome our new partners and excited to expand the RSI conservation education program, now at 5 zoos… and counting! Many thanks to Caroline Efstathion and Robert Horsburgh of APEC and to SCBI for their leadership and excellent work helping to grow the RSI.

Photo: Jhonathan Miranda.

Presentations by June 2019
01 Jun

Presentations by June 2019

  • Mike Braun: “Red Siskin Conservation and Genomics”. Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation Genomics course, October 2018; U Arkansas business school, Nov 2018; Augusta County Bird Club, Nov 2018.
  • Brian Coyle: “Red Siskin Initiative: Integrated Conservation”. Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation Ecology and Conservation of Migratory Birds Course, Sept 2018.
  • Jon Fink, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Board and Portland State University: “From Tom Simkin to Red Siskins, A 40-year association with the National Museum of Natural History”.  National Museum of Natural History, June 2018.
  • In April, Karen Holm, DVM, a student at George Mason University presented the poster: “Using Ultra Conserved Elements (UCEs) to produce SNP markers for the Pedigree Analysis of the Endangered Red Siskin (Spinus cucullatus)” on Research Day of the SciTech Campus Student. The research had the collaboration of Dr. Kate Rodríguez-Clark and the co-supervision of Dr. H. C. Lim, and received an Honorable Mention. Congratulations!
News Flashes!
31 May

News Flashes!

New Red Siskin bracelets went on sale at FONZ gift shops at Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park (NZP) thanks to the support of the Conservation Nation and Chávez Charity. Of all the species bracelets offered, Red Siskin bracelets were the top sellers! Funds from the sales of these bracelets support RSI conservation work in Venezuela. Many thanks to Mea MacKenzie for this creative idea.

● Erica Royer completed the AZA course “Population Management I” and Kate Rodríguez-Clark, NZP population ecologist, completed “Population Management II” in November in St. Louis, MO. These courses train participants in the latest software and procedures for studbook keeping and population management, respectively.

● Karen Holm, DVM and George Mason University PhD student, started a research project with Kathryn Rodriguez-Clark, NZP, to analyze genomic data and infer pedigree relationships for population management of red siskins. HC Lim, of George Mason University, is co-supervising and Brian Coyle, of Conservation Commons, is collaborating closely.

● Rafael Camacho, Master Sergeant, started an internship with Kate Rodriguez-Clark, NZP, supported by the Wounded Warrior Program of the Veteran’s Affairs Administration. He is an expert in logistics, is fluently bilingual in English and Spanish, and is learning about wildlife conservation as he contributes his bilingual skills to the team. Welcome Rafael!

● An article titled “Smithsonian Bird Friendly Coffee and Red Siskin Initiative: Sustainable Agroforestry in Venezuela” written by Brian Coyle, was published in November in the Smithsonian Sustainability Matters Newsletter.

● The Red Siskin Initiative is featured on the Smithsonian Global website, as part of their success stories. The article entitled “From Red Siskin Science, New Paths and Opportunities in Guyana” relates the beginning of the Initiative when a wild Red Siskin population was discovered in Guyana in 2000. Read the full article here.

● Miguel Arvelo, Red Siskin Initiative Coordinator, attended the 2nd International Wildlife Reintroduction Conference at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

● Raúl De Armas started an internship at Provita in November 2018 supporting project management of the “Siembra sombra, cosecha agua” and “Birds and Coffee” projects. Raúl is currently finishing his studies in Management of Business Administration at the Universidad Metropolitana (Caracas-VE). Welcome Raúl!

● Miguel Arvelo was selected for the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders class of 2019-2020 and completed his first training program at White Oak in March.

The Red Siskin Conservation Center (RSCC) is ready!
16 May

The Red Siskin Conservation Center (RSCC) is ready!

We are pleased to announce that Venezuela’s first dedicated Red Siskin Conservation Center (RSCC) is almost complete! The Center, located at Leslie Pantin Zoo in Turmero, Aragua, Venezuela, represents a major milestone for RSI, and a crucial step toward bringing the Endangered Red Siskin back from the brink of extinction. With the support of many partners, we have created essential infrastructure to rescue, rehabilitate, raise, and one day reintroduce this species in a sustainable way within the framework of our overall Conservation Strategy. We are grateful to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Department of Animal Programs of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) for the support that made this work possible.

 

In search of the Golden-winged Warbler in Red Siskin habitat
02 May

In search of the Golden-winged Warbler in Red Siskin habitat

The Golden-Winged Warbler, (Vermivora chrysoptera, or Reinita Alidorada in Spanish), which is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN criteria, uses some of the same habitat as the Red Siskin. Thanks to a grant from the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), a valued partner on multiple RSI projects, we are expanding our field work to include monitoring of this species to estimate the species’ winter range in Venezuela. Jhonathan Miranda, avian field research specialist, is leading this work with assistance from Katiuska González (Centro de Ecologia, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas-Caracas) and Lisandro Morán (IVIC-Zulia); who recently joined the RSI team as a field technician.

The team visited three locations of the coastal mountain range of northern Venezuela: Piedra de Cachimbo (Vargas State), which is also the main site of the BF project, Henri Pittier National Park (Aragua State) and Guaramacal National Park (Portuguesa State). While the Golden-Winged Warbler remained elusive, they found other endangered birds, including the Helmeted Curassow (Paujil copete de piedra, Pauxi pauxi) and migrants such as the emblematic Cerulean Warbler (Reinita cerúlea, Setophaga cerulean). Another noteworthy result is that the team recorded several new species for Henri Pittier National Park, which had not been detected in any previous census.

American Bird Conservancy seeks to understand the coffee market for conservation purposes
15 Apr

American Bird Conservancy seeks to understand the coffee market for conservation purposes

In 2019, RSI and ABC started a study to better understand the feasibility of investing in the Venezuelan specialty coffee industry while maintaining conservation as a priority. We hope to identify additional coffee producers in Venezuela interested in improving their farming practices while preserving forests and biodiversity. Project activities will include an overview of the national coffee market, identification of potential buyers, and the analysis of exports.

The project is led by Maria Elisa Vollmer, who brings experience in public policy, environmental management, and economic incentives. Based in Nashville, TN (USA), she works as a consultant on integrated urban development and efficient use of natural resources. Maria Elisa will be joined in Venezuela by Génesis Cardozo, who will be in charge of field activities for the project. Other project members include Andrés Anchondo and Andrew Rothman, of ABC, and Miguel Arvelo, RSI Coordinator, with Luis Arrieta, the Birds and Coffee Technical Coordinator.

Smithsonian visit in March – Guyana
07 Apr

Smithsonian visit in March – Guyana

In March, Smithsonian’s Conservation Commons sent a delegation to Guyana to reinforce existing collaborations and explore new opportunities to continue and expand support for conservation and sustainable development in the region. This re-energized initiative builds on three decades of research and capacity development via the NMNH Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield Program. Mike Braun, NMNH; Brian Coyle, Conservation Commons; Steve Canty, Smithsonian Marine Station; and Matt Lutkenhouse, Office of International Relations and Conservation Commons, met with leaders and staff of the Iwokrama International Rainforest Center for Conservation and Development; the Mangrove Restoration Project; Conservation International; WWF Guyana; the South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS); the Guyana Environmental Protection Agency; the Ministries of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Agriculture, State and Infrastructure; the Guyana Tourism Authority; University of Guyana; artisans; and leaders of several communities and eco-lodges in the Rupununi Savanna. It was an exciting visit to an area of amazing natural beauty and wonderful people. We look forward to working with our partners on exciting new opportunities.

South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS)
11 Mar

South Rupununi Conservation Society (SRCS)

While SRCS has aimed to promote conservation practices in the Rupununi in general, much of their work has focused on research and environmental education on the Red Siskin. Other activities have included ranger training, turtle conservation and scoping future work to promote Smithsonian Bird Friendly Coffee and other shade crop farms. Recently, SRCS has collaborated on the Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Project, which aims to understand wildlife conservation concerns within the context of food security in a set of key socio-ecosystems. To do this, the project will promote the sustainable and legal use of stable wildlife populations by rural peoples and undertake alternative livelihood projects to provide other sources of protein for both rural and urban areas. In Guyana, SWM is implemented by the Guyana Wildlife Management and Conservation Commission in coordination with the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). As part of its objectives, SWM also provides support to local organizations involved in wildlife management and conservation in the Rupununi. In this context, SWM had engaged the SRCS to create an environmental education program, which combines scientific and traditional knowledge. The aim of this program is to be practical and engaging, targeting behaviour change, supporting education systems and creating an avenue for local knowledge to be valued within the educational context. Additionally, the SRCS is developing new plans to study movement and estimate population size for Red Siskin and Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), which may be declining.

SRCS also recently completed their #sgp #undp #gef and #clp supported project for continued conservation of the Red Siskin in South Rupununi. Our President Leroy Ignacio and treasurer Erin Earl distributed the ‘top 100 birds of south rupununi’ books and 6 posters portraying why the Rupununi region is so important for bird conservation and tourism. SRCS thanks our funders for their vital support in seeing our efforts through.

To contact the SRCS, please send messages to srcs.rupununi@gmail.com

Last year’s Red Siskin chicks are doing well at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
15 Feb

Last year’s Red Siskin chicks are doing well at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Erica Royer, bird keeper at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation and Biology Institute at Front Royal, reports that three chicks produced in 2018 are doing well. She notes that the sole hand-reared chick fledged and successfully integrated back into the flock, saying “He shows no signs of imprinting on humans, which is valuable to know in case we ever need to assist a dam with rearing her chicks by supplemental feeding or hand-rearing again in the future.” Erica photographed all chicks to record the progression of feather development and to determine when sex-specific plumage emerges. She also saved and carefully measured all nests. This research that is crucial to our field biologists who are monitoring nesting birds in Venezuela and Guyana.

This year, the birds at SCBI started nesting earlier than ever before. In previous years, Front Royal birds started nesting activities in March/April, while this year, three females began displaying reproductive behaviors the first week of February! More chicks have recently joined the flock and breeding activity continues.

Photo by: Erica Royer

Red Siskin Chocolate in Venezuela
15 Feb

Red Siskin Chocolate in Venezuela

The Red Siskin Initiative Special Edition Chocolate bar is now available for sale in four locations. In Venezuela, you can find our feel-good, tastes-good chocolate at Hato Las Caretas (Edo. Guárico, Instagram: @hatolascaretas) and at the Subibaja Store (Instagram: @subibajacaracas) in Altamira Suites-CCS. In the US, you can find it at the Friends of the National Zoo gift shops at Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (Rock Creek Park, Washington DC) (@smithsonianzoo) and in the Sandwich Shop (NYC) (@thesandwichshopbk).