Our partner Fundación ProAves, the Women for Conservation family, and the conservation community have lost a remarkable environmental steward.
Gonzalo Cardona Molina died in Tolima, Colombia where he spent over 20 years dedicated to protecting Endangered Yellow-eared Parrots and their habitat. Better known as Gonza, he began with ProAves at its founding, serving as the first forest guard for the organization. His mission for two decades was to help the species flourish, and he was wildly successful, bringing the Yellow-eared Parrot back from the brink of extinction.
Gonza championed the birds, and took on the risk of his life’s work with passion and vigor. The only remaining population of Yellow-eared Parrots make their home in an area of the Andes where safety can be a concern. There in the humid montane forest, the parrots find their essential nesting sites in the Endangered Quindío Wax Palm. But the palm is logged for its strong wood and the local landscape has been degraded by cattle grazing and unsustainable agriculture and aquaculture. The birds themselves are targeted by hunters for food or sale into the illegal pet trade. Only 81 individuals were left and struggling to survive when Gonza took on the charge of their protection. He lived and loved his work for two decades, including organizing massive wax palm replanting efforts and creating a silvopasture plan that has helped protect wildlife while benefiting people in the area for 17 years. His two decades of selfless dedication to saving this iconic species of Colombia is a triumph. In December 2020, Gonza completed a national census of the Yellow-eared Parrot population, counting 2,895 individuals.
“There would be no Yellow-eared Parrots without him. We have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with him for 22 years and I am so grateful for the time he dedicated to ProAves. Gonza planted a new forest that will someday become habitat for the species that he protected. It is an honor for me to have served alongside such a devoted and passionate individual,” shared Sara Ines Lara, Women for Conservation’s Founder and ProAves Foundation’s current Executive Director. “He is part of the tapestry of our lives,” added Project Manager Isabella Cortes Lara. In 2019, Isabella stayed with Gonza for nearly a month to be mentored in his conservation approach and strategies. What she learned is now more important than ever as we continue the work to protect the Yellow-eared Parrot after the species has lost their greatest advocate.
Our hearts go out to Gonza’s family and the staff of ProAves. We thank you for your support at this time of loss for the conservation community. Gonzalo Cardona Molina will continue to live on through his work and the passion for conservation he inspired in others.
You can contribute to continuing Gonza’s work here.