By Iraida Campo Photos: Vladimir Molina
The erstwhile natives of the Cuban islands called them Caica, but their scientific name is Amazona leucocephala, commonly known as the Cuban parrot.
Their beautiful colors, docility and easy adaptation to captivity, as well as their bewitching way of reproducing the human voice, make Cuban parrots very appealing, but also very vulnerable. They are threatened and listed as a species near extinction, so they are permanently protected on the island.
Despite their vulnerability, all indications are that Cuban parrots will have a long stay in the natural landscape of the largest island of the Caribbean.
Separate paths 10 the same end
Two women dedicate hours to the care and reproduction in captivity of the Cuban parrot.
Elena Ramos, a graduate in biological sciences, uses all the scientific and technical arsenal of a modern laboratory to obtain parrot chicks in incubators.
Before placing them in the incubator, Ramos sterilizes the eggs, date tags them, and registers their weight. She frequently checks on the birds' embryonic development using advanced equipment. She repeats this procedure every twenty-six days, which is more or less how long incubation lasts. It is quite difficult for the chicks to get out of the egg and sometimes it can take up to three days to be free.
A nutrition specialist prepares special food for each of the stages of the birds' life, newly hatched, youth, adult and those in the reproductive stage. The main characteristic of the foods are their high quality and is prepared so as to prevent the parrots from chocking and dying.
The scientific research by Ramos and her team has been compiled in a bird guide that. with photos and some essential characteristics, helps determine the bird's age . This guide is a tremendously useful tool for those working in natural areas. Whenever they find an abandoned chick or illegally captured ones, they can determine their age and provide a proper diet. It also helps in using the proper technology to handle the birds.
Self-taught Ana María Zayas displays tremendous love for animals and, for the last 18 years, has carefully studied the tiniest details to discover some of the mysteries of these birds. Zayas keeps her parrots at home and the birds care for their offspring just as if they were in the wild. She has also created a food recipe, in her case out of pure intuition.
In the catalogue of the exhibition Zayas prepared in the Old Havana Historic Centre, eminent Cuban scientist Professor Vicente Berovides offers the following opinion:
"In 1994 Ana Marfa Zayas could differentiate parrot genre by just looking at them and by the color of the neck-chest area. Her conclusions were proven valid in 2000 when 52 birds were examined in a laboratory and the results confirmed what was already obvious to Ana."
Parrots live in flocks. They choose their mate and, if one is imposed, they rarely accept it.
This is a very desirable bird, especially for its beauty. To preserve it as part of the Cuban natural heritage is the task of many experts, who study and permanently protect it from hunters.