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The Most Wanted Bird in Mesoamerica

The Honduran Emerald Hummingbird, Today’s Endangered All-Star, is the most imperiled bird in Central America and one of the most endangered in the world. Its plight highlights the extreme destruction of its habitat, arid thorn forest and dry tropical forest. While not well-known, dry tropical forest—hardly dry during the wet season, with an average of 10-80 inches of rain annually, compared to 80-10 in the rain forest—hosts great biodiversity, but much has been lost to agricultural development. To make matters worse, Honduras is building 35 miles of highway, the San Lorenzo-Olanchito Road, through the bird’s habitat, much of which has been bulldozed for cattle grazing and pineapple plantations. INOCSA, a construction firm, has been put in charge of “Environmental Impact Control and Mitigation” of the highway, whatever that means, and the Honduran government has apparently agreed to create a small reserve in the Aguán Valley in exchange for World Bank loans for road construction. The dry forest once covered 50,000 hectares of the Valley floor; now less than 4,000 remain intact. The Valley lies within the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, a conservation and restoration project seeking to reunite a corridor of wilderness throughout Central America, but the MBC has been notoriously slow to make progress. Will the promised reserve be enough to save the hummingbird and—just as important—its dry tropical home? It had better be: Without intensive conservation measures, the Hummingbird Society gives this bird a fifty percent chance of extinction within the next decade.
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