By Christiana Ferris
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Quick! What’s green, 9.5 centimeters and found only in Honduras?
The emerald hummingbird, Amazilia luciae. It’s one of the country’s rarest birds—Central America’s most endangered, in fact—and the only bird to call Honduras its exclusive home.
But fewer than a thousand of these flying jewels still exist today because their habitat is being cleared for cattle grazing and agriculture such as banana plantations.
The good news is, this pint-sized whirlybird now has a safe haven in the Emerald Hummingbird Reserve, created by the Honduran government in 2005 with help from The Nature Conservancy. This 12,000-acre reserve in the Yoro department protects not just the emerald but also critically threatened dry forest habitat—sorely under-represented in the country’s national protected areas system. Dry forests here are important sites for migratory birds, reptiles, orchids and up to 50 endemic plant species.
In the few remaining patches of suitable arid thorn-forest and scrub in Central Honduras, the emerald zips from blossom to blossom among euphorbias, acacias, bromeliads and cactus, sipping nectar and catching small insects in mid-air.
The Nature Conservancy’s Role
The Conservancy has provided financial and technical support to government agencies and local community groups to complete a 10-year management plan for the reserve. We are now helping reserve managers create the operating plan—which outlines specific activities to be carried out in the near term—as well as marking the official reserve boundaries and training partners in park management. We also have helped strengthen the ties between government agencies and local communities to encourage continued dialogue and greater community participation in reserve management.
Work like this involves many partners, including the Institute for Forestry Conservation, Protected Areas and Wildlife; the Secretary of Public Works and Transportation; the Secretary of Education; the Honduras Regional Center for Environmental Education; the Emerald Hummingbird Reserve Ranchers and Farmers Association, the National Autonomous University of Honduras and the municipalities of Olanchito and Arenal.
Putting the Plans into Action
The Conservancy is strengthening capacities of these local groups and supporting on-the-ground partners carrying out activities such as:
- promoting sustainable agriculture and cattle ranching to conserve the soil,
- reforesting degraded lands with native tree species,
- environmental education for both students and local farmers,
- creating trails and a visitor center and training ecotourism guides,
- beefing up patrols and training local park guards, and
- wildlife monitoring.
These activities are helping to ensure that dry forests—and the emerald hummingbird—remain a part of Honduras’ rich mosaic of landscapes for generations to come.