For the Red Siskin, people have been the problem, but people are the solution too. We are planning a variety of education campaigns to help key audiences for Red Siskin recovery understand how they can help.
Building pride about threatened wildlife is a strategy that has proven successful in other countries in the region to reduce poaching and increase reporting of trapping and other threats. Close work will be essential with bird clubs as well as with local schools and community organizations where Red Siskins still survive as well as where reintroductions might occur.
Project members have used educational kits successfully with other species, with materials and games for children to learn about conservation and the Red Siskin. Such kits work best when freely distributed so that teachers and volunteers can spread the word how and when they want to. Jointly, conservation festivals, public events and volunteer actions can also bolster pride in this iconic species.
Also, Working with government offices and agents involved in trafficking and research is essential to establishing effective deterrence and enforcement. We are working with EPA Guyana to propose programs for training customs and border agents in wildlife identification as well as monitoring and reporting. In Venezuela, project members have established valuable relationships with parks officials to cooperate on increased research and enhanced monitoring and enforcement.
Targeting the potential buyers of Red Siskins and red canaries will also be crucial to reduce the demand for this species, and to help aviculturists spread the word about responsible bird keeping, and what species make good choices for hobbyists. Social networks, broad media presence and alliances with breeders and pet shops will be important tools for this.
However, zoos with Red Siskin conservation centers will act as the most important connectors between the public and our outreach efforts. We are working now to raise awareness among the US zoo community and interest more institutions in exhibiting Red Siskins and participating in project activities such as education, captive breeding and field research.
In Guyana, local communities have been receiving training and motivation to monitor and protect Red Siskins. The project has started collaborating with BirdLife International in planning to study and create Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) that encompass Red Siskin habitat.
Over the long term, farms with Smithsonian “Bird Friendly” certification or sites with ecotourism activities could be great places for reintroduction of Red Siskins, as these economic activities depend strongly on the health of local biodiversity and at the same time, would be a way to involve local people in sustainability.