Peru, the man who once cut down trees now protects them for love of hummingbirds

Dopo l’incontro con un raro colibrì, Norbil Becerra ha deciso di dedicare la sua vita alla salvaguardia di questi uccelli e della foresta.

Norbil Becerra once had only one way to make a living and support his family: cutting down trees for numerous illegal logging companies in the Peruvian Amazon. But one day, an encounter changed his life. He met a hummingbird, the marvellous spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis).


colibrì mirabile coda a spatola
According to estimates, there are about 1,000 individuals of marvellous spatuletail in the wild (Loddigesia mirabilis) © Dubi Shapiro


It was the very first time that the man saw one of these small and beautiful creatures, and he fell in love with it right away. This species, extremely rare and listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, is endemic to Peru and has a particularly delimited habitat, made of forests and shrubbery at an altitude of 2,000-2,900 metres in the Utcubamba valley, Northern Peru.


The males of marvellous spatuletail are characterised by blue crest feathers and emerald green gorget, but their most remarkable feature is their two long racquet-shaped outer tail feathers that end in large violet-blue “spatules”. Becerra said he was stroke by such encounter and decided to dedicate his life to the conservation of forest and hummingbirds.


Alto Mayo
Alto Mayo Protected Forest, Peru


He thus bought two hectares of forest in order to protect hummingbirds’ habitat and, thanks to the support of the UN programme REDD+, opened a hummingbird ecotourism centre in Aguas Verdes. The ex-logger, after the coordinator of the conservation agreement taught him how to create bird feeders and identify different species and flowers that attract them, has built with his own hands numerous wooden observation platforms that overlook a wide range of coloured flowers and plants.


“I know that my future and my family’s future depend on my conservation decisions,” Becerra said. For his environmental change, the backing of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) programme – supported by the UN, the FAO, UNEP, and UNDP – turned out to be fundamental. The programme aims to provide incentives to countries and community to keep forests intact, whilst showing them that standing trees are worth more than cut down.


A marvellous spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) approaches a bird feeder in Norbil Becerra’s ecotourism centre


Becerra’s family, along with 821 other families, committed to ending deforestation in the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, in return for benefits like agricultural training, improved cookstoves, educational materials and medical supplies. In Becerra’s centre, for the equivalent of 7 dollars it is possible to admire and photograph 24 hummingbird species flying about flowers and birdfeeders. “I’m living the tangible benefits of conservation,” he said.

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