The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) is an internationally renowned conservation breeding center with more than 3,000 acres of land in Front Royal, Virginia. The SCBI has the facilities, expertise and veterinarians. Brian Coyle was in charge of finding the birds and getting the effort organized so now the SCBI can have a research colony of red siskins there. The role of SCBI will be to study this little-known species and carefully develop the animal management, breeding and reintroduction techniques that we can then translate into action in Venezuela.
Warren Lynch, bird unit manager, is in charge of the red siskin colony at SCBI together with Paul Marinari, senior curator of animal operations. "This is a very rare bird that is also an important symbol for conservation in a biodiversity hotspot," says Marinari. "By bringing together expertise from across the Smithsonian, we believe we have a good chance to add to the scientific knowledge of this bird in a highly visible way that inspires crucial support for more conservation efforts in the region, but also builds vital capacity for in situ and ex situ conservation approaches in a place where it can have a big impact."
With this knowledge, SCBI will provide scientific support for conservation breeding programs at two Venezuelan zoos—Parque Zoológico y Botánico Bararida in Barquisimeto and Parque Zoológico El Pinar in Caracas—that are working on a program to breed large numbers of birds for reintroduction in the wild. Another participant, William Ruhl and his Boston-based firm, Ruhl Walker Architects, has designed an entire facility for red siskin breeding and education, providing these services pro bono.
By september 2016, the new SCBI flock was thriving and it is expected to start hatching chicks this spring 2017. The interns are being lined up to assist researchers with data collection on nutrition, vocalization, and breeding behaviors.