South Africa's Cape parrot needs more yellowwood trees to survive.


A young Cape parrot perches on a branch. Cyril Laubscher

The green and gold Cape parrot (Poicephalus robustus) is one of the most endangered parrots in the world.

The only parrot endemic to South Africa, fewer than a thousand individuals survive in the last patches of its dwindling habitat of yellowwood forest.

As the Cape parrot's yellowwood fruit resource disappears, the bird has changed its diet—for example, turning to pecan trees—bust it's not always able to find sufficiently wholesome food. Malnutrition makes it more susceptible to a deadly virus that in some years has infected as much as 100 percent of the birds. (Related post: "Africa's Most Endangered Parrot Revealed Like Never Before.")

National Geographic Emerging Explorer Steve Boyes is trying to pull the Cape parrot back from the brink of oblivion.

Boyes has a plan to restore the endemic yellowwood forests that once flourished across a wide swath of the southern tip of Africa, giving the parrots and other species that depend on the trees a chance to rebound. The plan involves many local communities that also stand to benefit from the return of the forests. It's a strategy in which villagers, parrots, and yellowwood trees share a healthy ecosystem for the benefit of all.

Boyes is in Washington, D.C., this week for the annual National Geographic Explorers Symposium, where he talked to us about his work, which is funded in part by the National Geographic Conservation Trust.

Q. Is South Africa's Cape parrot the world's most endangered parrot? Is there any good news to report following all the work you have done to save it?

More of the story, click image