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New population of a rare and endangered Long-Whiskered owlet found in Peru

02/02/2010 18:37:23

Long whiskered owlet - Credit: Sachar Alterman / NPC

Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) was founded by Sam and Noga Shanee and Lizzie Cooke in 2007. It began as a non-profit organization and was awarded UK charity status in August 2009. NPC was set to promote the conservation of Neotropical forest habitat and all wildlife through various means. These include: land protection; research; improvement of degraded habitat for wildlife; creation of public awareness; environmental education; and facilitation of the commercialization of sustainable, ecological products on behalf of local people.


Critically endangered Yellow-tailed woolly monkeys also found
February 2010. The Long whiskered owlet, one of the rarest birds in the world, has been filmed and photographed in January 2010 in the Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) main research area, La Esperanza, in Peru.
The owlet was observed by Shachar Alterman, an Israeli birdwatcher who joined the UK charity organization's project for a month to carry out bird inventories in the region.

The species was also seen by Noga Shanee, co-founder of the organization, and Edin Fonseca, a local guide whose help made it possible to find such a rare species.

First discovered in 1976
The Long-whiskered owlet (Xenoglaux loweryi) was first discovered in 1976, when it was caught in a mist nest by an ornithological team. Since then, the owlet has been seen very few times. It is endemic to a very small altitudinal range in the humid mountain forests of Amazonas and San Martin. The species is listed as Endangered on IUCN Red List.

First sighting since 2007
Despite all efforts, by researchers and birders alike, no Long-Whiskered Owlet has been seen since 2007. Alterman and Sahnee state that "As far as we know, this is only the fourth time this rare bird has ever been seen in the wild - and the first time it has been captured on video".

Long whiskered owlet - First sightng of this species
SINCE 2007.
Credit: Sachar Alterman / NPC

"At first I thought it was a frog, since it sounded coarser than the playback I have. But it is a very distinctive call", Said Alterman after the sighting. "Suddenly it felt as though the whole forest is full of 'Lechusitas' (The Common local nickname for the bird in Peru).

"After a brief moment of silence, they were calling from all different corners of the forest", He added. "The bird itself was perched five metres above our head."

"It's been one of the happiest moments in my life. We birders are so easy to please, just give us a new bird and we're satisfied, but this one tops it all. This is the first time that I feel that finding a new bird can help its natural habitat and a whole community. At least that's what I pray will happen", says Alterman.

More rare species - Rusty-Tinged Antpitta and Johnson's Tody-Tyrant
Shanee added that "On the same night the owlet was found, the NPC group heard no less than five birds which responded to the recorded calls played by the team. No previous record of such dense population exists so far". Two other species of rare and endemic birds; Rusty-Tinged Antpitta and Johnson's Tody-Tyrant were identified on the same 3 week trip.

Yellow tailed woolly monkey -
Credit: Noga Shanee / NPC

Yellow-tailed woolly monkeys
During the survey, Shanee also spotted 12 yellow tailed woolly monkeys - Adults males and females, and some young ones.

Critically endangered monkey - Threatened by deforestation
According to Shanee, The owlet is threatened by the same hazards which affect the yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda). This critically endangered monkey is endemic to a small area of the Tropical Andes in Peru; itself an endangered ecosystem. The main threat facing the area and its inhabitants is massive deforestation which is directly connected to the growing human population and poverty. There are less then a 1,000 of these monkeys dispersed between several remote and unconnected populations.

"We are hoping that this new discovery of the Long-Whiskered Owlet's population and the interest it will generate with birdwatchers and conservationist groups will help to further conservation efforts for this special forest".

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