The Resplendent Quetzal Rises Again
Good news – the beautiful and exotic quetzal has tripled in population over the last 25 years in Mexico thanks to three decades of conservation programmes. Despite once being endangered, the Environment Secretary for the Environment in Mexico said it is now possible "to see a greater number [of quetzals] flying freely" in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in the southeastern state of Chiapas. The resplendent quetzal is a rare bird endemic to the rainforests of Central America, and once thrived from Chiriqui in Panama to the isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico, at an altitude above 1,200 metres in humid cloud forests with more than 3,000 mm of rainfall every year.
It was considered a symbol of Central America and worshipped by many civilisations – even today it is the national bird of Guatemala, and the Guatemalan currency is named after it. Their beautiful colours, and extreme sexual dimorphism (females sport strikingly different plumage to males) has made them much-loved birds but habitat destruction in Mesoamerica had lead to severe depopulation. Luckily, conservation schemes set up by the Mexican government means that populations are slowly rising to their former glory.