Orinoco Geese in Venezuela
The Orinoco Goose Nestbox Project is administered through the Venezuelan Waterfowl Foundation, established through the combined resources of the Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Breeding Center, the International Wild Waterfowl Association and the Akron Zoo. The Foundation’s mission is the conservation of the Andean river systems and the preservation of wild waterfowl in Venezuela, in particular the Torrent Duck and the Orinoco Goose.
The Orinoco Goose is a threatened South American tropical species partial to dense, lowland, jungle-lined rivers, streams and other wetlands in open grasslands with scattered trees, particularly the llanos. This species represents the only true forest goose.
In the not-too-distant past, the geese were regarded as among the most numerous of the Orinoco River waterfowl, but they are presently scarce except in remote or protected regions. A recent survey conducted by a Foundation field researcher indicated that tropical rainforest destruction, especially due to cattle ranching in the llanos, has accelerated the population decline. Nearing extinction in Peru, the vulnerable geese have vanished from parts of Columbia and have disappeared from navigable rivers elsewhere.
The llanos of Venezuela appears to be the Orinoco’s last remaining stronghold and is the focus area for the nestbox project. The birds nest almost exclusively in the holes of large trees. The clearing of forests from the rivers edge to obtain pasture is forcing the birds to seek nesting sites as far as twenty miles from a water source. This is not a sustainable situation for the llanos geese. The geese have proven to utilize nestboxes placed on poles. The Foundation has placed nestboxes near rivers or wetlands on the property of ranch owners willing to support the project. Mike Lubbock, Brent Lubbock and Veterinarian Gary Riggs made a return visit to Venezuela in 2006 to monitor the result of the current boxes and provide suggestions for placement of additional ones.