Colombian Government Announces Findings in Investigation into the Collection of Fenwick’s Antpitta

A recent article in Science (SCIENCE VOL 331 4 MARCH 2011 1123) opened a remakable discussion with the following paragraphs:

Last May, at the Washington, D.C., home of the Colombian ambassador, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and its partner in Colombia, Fundación ProAves, announced the discovery of a new species of Neotropical bird. ABC touted the feat as “remarkable” for being one of the first times a new species had been scientifically described from an individual captured, measured, photographed, and then released.

For George Fenwick, head of ABC, it was a proud moment: The bird, Fenwick’s antpitta (Grallaria fenwickorum), was named in honor of his family.

The problem with the announcement was that it made no mention of the bird’s actual discoverer, a 28-year-old former employee of ProAves named Diego Carantón, and the two preserved specimens he had already collected.


It’s a strange and almost anachronistic tale redolent of a bygone era where ‘specimens’ were collected and museums and individuals fought over naming rights.

However, according to a press-release yesterday from Fundación ProAves the Colombian Government has come down on their side – but there is s sting in the tail…

There has been a lengthy and exhaustive review by the Colombian regional governmental environmental authority – CORPOURABÁ – into the circumstances surrounding the collection by Diego Carantón of two specimens of Fenwick’s Antpitta (Grallaria fenwickorum) from the Colibrí del Sol Bird Reserve in northwestern Colombia. CORPOURABÁ has now published a report finding that Mr. Carantón had acted illegally in failing to report the collection of bird specimens from ProAves bird reserve. He was also found to have breached ProAves’ internal regulations. A fine of over USD $10,600 has been imposed by CORPOURABÁ as a consequence of Mr. Carantón’s actions.

ProAves cooperated fully with CORPOURABÁ in this investigation. However, unfortunately, ProAves is jointly liable for the fine because they were the employer of Mr. Carantón at the time. This constitutes one of the most serious fines for illegal bird collecting activities in Colombia’s history, highlighting the gravity of the circumstances that threaten this Critically Endangered species.

ProAves has confirmed that it is not against collecting in appropriate circumstances, but that its employees and contractors are obligated to abide by the country’s laws, and must receive approval from ProAves and the appropriate governmental entity before taking specimens from its protected areas. This is an extremely rare and isolated case within the ornithological research community and one that we all hope is not repeated.

Details of the investigation and other facts can be found in the journal Conservación Colombiana (website link).

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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores

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