Women, many dedicated women, are working hard to save birds and their habitats which are crucial for maintaining the health of our planet and ensuring a sustainable future for all living beings.
During Women’s Month, we salute the women of the Wild Bird Trust, and this year the women scientists of the Cape Parrot Project in particular, for their commitment, perseverance and hard work in the disciplines of study of science, wildlife and conservation whilst raising awareness about the splendour of birds.
Through research and restoration initiatives, the Wild Bird Trust is striving to save the endangered Cape Parrot, of which there are fewer than 2000 in the wild.
Since 2014, Dr Kirsten Wimberger has served as the project director for the Cape Parrot Project and as a trustee for the Wild Bird Trust.
After completing her postdoctoral research on the endangered Samango Monkey in the forests of Hogsback in the Eastern Cape, she took over the reins to save the Cape Parrot from her husband Steve Boyes, who founded the Wild Bird Trust.
As a mother of two, Dr Wimberger celebrates Women’s Month with her kids. She is also highly conscious of this day, which commemorates how women before her paved the way for their rights to wear trousers, have their own bank accounts, and own assets.
“I’m incredibly grateful that I can head the Cape Parrot Project. We have a fantastic team that conducts on-the-ground research and conservation action in Hogsback.”
Dr Wimberger hopes that as the project’s reach expands, South Africans will recognise the Cape Parrot as an endangered bird that needs to be protected. She desires to see a significant rise in the population of the Cape Parrot through the team’s conservation action including the restoration and protection of their forest habitat.
Dr Jessica Leaver serves as the Cape Parrot Project’s Landscape Conservation Manager.
In Maun, Botswana, where Leaver finished primary school, lessons were taught outside the classroom. Here, in her untamed surroundings, she developed a love for nature.
While working on her PhD, she invented a technique for evaluating how forest bird communities change in response to habitat deterioration. Her research on the effects of formal logging on the Cape Parrot nest sites led to improved government forest management procedures.
In order to monitor key Cape Parrot forests over the long term, Leaver has successfully directed the development of a framework and project plan for forest monitoring.
For Leaver, Women’s Month is an occasion to honour the contribution of women conservationists who paved the path for her to take on her current role.
Dr Francis Brooke is the Cape Parrot Project’s research manager in Hogsback where her area of expertise is the ecology of endangered bird species.
She oversees field research that focuses on the Cape Parrot’s breeding behaviours, movement patterns with food availability.
“To gauge the health of the population, we keep an eye on how many birds roost in the forests near Hogsback and other nearby areas.”
Brooke added the ultimate impact is to essentially work oneself out of a job, which means that the conservation work being done is so effective and impactful, the species we are trying to conserve finally reaches a stable and safe conservation status, and the population can thrive without human intervention.
“I believe Woman’s Month involves not just honouring the women who came before us but also fostering opportunities for and recognising the next generation of female leaders, particularly in the field of conservation, where male dominance has historically predominated.”
Future female conservation and wildlife professionals should seize any possibilities that present themselves, but Brooke also tells them to not be hesitant to create their own opportunities. “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, either.”
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