Saffron Siskin Recovery Project - Ecuador

Safranzeisigprojekt - Equador

The project director of this project is Eric von Horstman.

Saffron Siskin Carduelis Siemiradzkii Conservation Program in Southwestern Ecuador


The Pro-Forest Foundation in conjunction with the Ornithological Foundation of Ecuador, CECIA will design and implement a conservation program for the Saffron Siskin Carduelis siemiradzkii, focusing on a field study to investigate the species breeding ecology and distribution in the Tumbesian region of Southwestern Ecuador.

The preferred habitats, seasonal movements and relative abundance of the siskins at various study sites will also be investigated, including the Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco and Isla Puna located near the coastal city of Guayaquil.


The Saffron Siskin is listed as vulnerable in the "Lista de Aves Amenazadas de Extincion en el Ecuador", which is defined as not in danger, but faces a high risk of extinction in its natural state in the mid-term. The Saffron Siskin inhabits semi-arid scrub and dry deciduous forest up to 750 meters. Only three localities where the siskin occurs in Ecuador have protected status and if the species prove indeed to depend on deciduous for part of its life-cycle, such as breeding, then it is likely to be seriously threatened by deforestation. The dry tropical forest where the Saffron Siskin is found is one of the most threatened forest types in Ecuador, where the burgeoning population and the rapid expansion of the agricultural frontier has reduced the dry forest to 1-2% of its original area. the Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco, where the study will be focused, is a stronghold of the Saffron Siskin, with up to 30 birds seen in one flock. The Isla Puna is a large island in the Gulf of Guayaquil, where little biological inventory work has been carried out, but which still supports extensive stands of dry forest, which the study will help clarify its importance for the Saffron Siskin.


The Saffron Siskin is one of eight threatened or endangered bird species found in the Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco, which places the reserve in the ranking of one of only four Ecuadorian protected areas with seven or more threatened bird species. Because of this, Cerro Blanco was recently declared the second Ecuadorian Important Bird Area (IBA).

In an area of widespread deforestation, there currently exists little awareness of the eight threatened bird species and their plight, aside from the Great Green Macaw, which is the symbol of the Bosque Protector Cerro and the focus of a on-going educational campaign. The Pro-Forest Foundation will produce a conservation poster featuring the Saffron Siskin and distribute the poster in the Siskin's range throughout southwest Ecuador and northwest Peru. The poster will include clear photos of the species, a range map, and general information to help people identify the siskins, with telephone numbers of the Pro-Forest Foundation's offices to report sightings in the field as well as captive birds.


Six month field study of the Saffron Siskin carried out at two study sites in coastal Ecuador focusing on breeding ecology and distribution, but also including data on preferred habitats, seasonal movements and relative abundance of selected siskin populations, conservation reccomendations for both Cerro Blanco and the Isla Puna presented to conservation organizations and authorities for implementation, 5,000 bird conservation posters produced, 10,000 people will recieve conservation message in Southwestern Ecuador through educational program.


Donations to the Saffron Siskin Project are always welcome. Please contact Eric von Horstman for details. Thank you to John Quatro for his kind donation of US$1,000 towards the start-up of this important project.


The official launching of the Saffron Siskin Conservation Program was held at the University of Guayaquil on November 14,2000. Over 80 people attended the event, including representatives of the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment, Ecuadorian Ornithological Foundation (CECIA), University professors, students as well as representatives of other national conservation organizations. The Conservation Program was covered by El Universo, the leading newspaper in Ecuadorian Coast and in general, public response was very positive.

Since the launching, regional events such as a dry forest management seminar held in Macará, Loja (in the Tumbesian bio-region) were used to distribute posters to Ecuadorian as well as Peruvian Organization such as Pro Aves Perú. We hope that with additional funds, work can begin on the second phase of the program, including the carrying out of a census in the Isla Puná, Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco, Loja as well as initiate a captive breeding program in the Pro-Forest Foundations Wildlife Conservation Center near Guayaquil.


In the International Seminar on Management of Dry Tropical Forest held in Macara, Province of Loja in December, 2000, 250 Saffron Siskin posters were given to Jeremy Flanagan, representative of Pro-Aves Peru (a bird conservation organization that works in the siskin's range in Northwest Peru) for distribution as part of Pro-Ave's educational activities in local schools in the region.

A total of 350 siskin conservation posters have also been distributed by the Fundacion Pro-Bosque in Southwestern Ecuador as well as nationally, through organizations such as the Fundacion Ornitologica del Ecuador-CECIA, the Loja office of the Red Agroforestal Ecuatoriana, among others.

On a macro scale, the Fundacion Pro-Bosque has worked for eight months during 2001 in the preparation of a regulation for the sustainable management of dry tropical forest through the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment. The regulation represents one of the first attempts in Ecuador to manage the dry tropical forest's that make up the Saffron Siskin's habitat, sustainably. Landowners will be required to file use plans prepared by professionals from the private sector that will be required to identify and protect habitat for endangered and threatened species of plants and animals on their land.

Although a start has been made in increasing awareness of the Saffron Siskin and its threatened status, key next steps that with support from siskin fanciers, breeders and concerned people worldwide we hope to launch in 2002 include:

Eric von Horstman (Author)
Claudia Krobb (Webmaster)