Bird Conservation International

Growing Points in Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation

Implications of altitudinal migration for conservation strategies to protect tropical biodiversity: a case study of the Resplendent Quetzal Pharomacrus mocinno at Monteverde, Costa Rica

George V. N. Powella1 and Robin D. Bjorka2

a1 RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, 1616 Walnut Street, Suite 911, Philadelphia, PA 19103, U.S.A.

a2 National Audubon Society, 115 Indian Mount Trail, Tavernier, FL 33070, U.S.A.


We documented habitat use by the Resplendent Quetzal Pharomacrus mocinno, a large frugivorous bird that breeds in cloud-forests in the highlands of Central America, to assess the adequacy of protection afforded to regional biodiversity by the Monteverde reserve complex, a protected natural area that includes most of the highland forests of the Tilarán mountain range in western Costa Rica. Our results demonstrated that this relatively large (20,000 ha) protected natural area does not adequately protect the area's biodiversity. Through the use of radio-telemetry, we identified the areas on the Pacific slopes that are most critical to altirudinally migrating Quetzals. These forest patches are subject to deforestation and degradation and are rapidly becoming further isolated from other remaining forest. The possibility of the local extirpation of the Quetzal, through continued habitat loss on the Pacific slopes, presents an unusual dilemma for the region because the species is the major attraction for the Ideal tourist industry which now includes over 80 businesses and annually generates over US$5 million in local revenue. Therefore, its extirpation would seriously affect regional economic stability. In order to protect the Monteverde Quetzal population, we propose a regional conservation plan that depends on participation of local landowners to protect their remaining forest fragments and allows for the development of corridors to connect critical habitats as the focus of a regional conservation effort. While the ecological significance of the structure of corridors per se, versus other possible formats, is still being debated, we have selected the corridor format primarily because it is relatively easy for landowners to grasp the concept and the necessity for continuity of the corridor network. This recognition provides an important incentive for participation across property boundaries, promoting cooperation in a group effort rather than as isolated actions. Success of this cooperative plan will provide an example for grass-roots participation in buffer-zone management strategies elsewhere in the Neotropics.