Pawi project (2007-2008)

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) sponsored work on the Trinidad piping-guan or pawi by postgraduate student Kerrie Naranjit. This forms part of a larger programme of work by the Pawi Study Group, St. Augustine (PSG). Her thesis was submitted in 2012 and the M.Phil. in Environmental Biology was awarded in 2013.

Kerrie T. Naranjit
c/o Department of Life Sciences
University of the West Indies
St. Augustine
Trinidad and Tobago

The Trinidad piping-guan (Pipile pipile) is the only species of bird endemic to the island of Trinidad. It is a medium sized cracid galliform locally known as the "pawi" and is at risk of extinction because of hunting and habitat loss. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and of Immediate Conservation Priority on the IUCN Cracid Specialist Group Action Plan. The pawi is now known only from about 150 km2 of suitable habitat in the eastern portion of the Northern Range in Trinidad, with a population thought to be lower than 200 birds (BirdLife International, 2000). Temple (1998) reported that illegal hunting is the overriding threat to the species, and that its status had deteriorated significantly during the preceding 10 years. James and Hislop (1988) reviewed the status of the pawi and conservation measures taken to that time. The pawi was listed as one of the highest priorities for action in the Cracid Action Plan for 2000-2004 (Brooks and Strahl, 2000), and both the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the Wildlife Section of the Division of Forestry have identified the pawi as a species of particular interest. It is one of the first three Environmentally Sensitive Species listed by the EMA.

The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine has been involved with research on the pawi since 2004, as part of the Pawi Study Group (PSG). Kerrie Naranjit did a short study of the habitat use of the pawi as her B.Sc. research project in spring 2005, and was a participant on Project Pawi later that summer. Project Pawi was organised by Aidan Keane, who received a Gold Award from the BP Conservation Programme (BPCP) for this survey of the current distribution of the pawi, in collaboration with the PSG. Kerrie Naranjit was selected to attend the BPCP Training Course (Monitoring and Assessment of Biodiversity Program) at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park Conservation and Research Center, Virginia in June 2005. Subsequently a grant from the American Bird Conservancy (William Belton Small Grants Fund) and the Conservation International Foundation was obtained by the PSG to continue this work in the form of an M.Phil. studentship. The EMA agreed to provide a stipend for the studentship, and Kerrie Naranjit was appointed and began field work in January 2007. Through her association with Project Pawi, and participation in another BPCP project on the Bloody Bay frog in Tobago in 2006, Kerrie obtained a BPCP Alumnus Grant to attend the Tall Timbers field station in Florida in May 2007. There she received three weeks training in radiotracking and capture of wild galliform birds from Dr John Carroll and his research group. Many of these initiatives have been facilitated by help from the World Pheasant Association, Fordingbridge, UK.

Work on the distribution and status of the pawi, and active conservation measures, are continuing by the PSG. The particular focus of the M.Phil. studentship is the population biology of the pawi, in particular at a field site in Grande Riviere in the eastern Northern Range, and a control site at Morne Bleu in the central Northern Range. Alexander (2002) has highlighted how little information is known about the pawi, including the seasonality of breeding and the location of nesting sites. The M.Phil. project is developing a photographic method of individual recognition (based on the white wing coverts) so that the behaviour of identifiable individuals can be catalogued. The project will describe the phenology of behaviour, and aspects such as home ranges more directly related to conservation. Radiotracking will be used when wild pawi can be caught safely, with the latter being the major consideration. Kerrie Naranjit has received a thorough training program in handling galliform birds, including a captive pawi, through the PSG. The assistance of many volunteer field workers, mostly from Trinidad, has also been essential to the success of the project. Kerrie gave a presentation on the pawi project at the Fifth International Galliformes Symposium of the World Pheasant Association, Chiang Mai, Thailand, in November 2010 (see also Naranjit, 2010).

Work on the pawi has to be done in conjunction with local communities, as threats to this bird are directly anthropogenic. The principal study population at Grande Riviere is in an area where good relations have already been developed with the local community, including the recent hosting of a workshop on conservation of the pawi and sea turtles in the area (September 2006). There is incipient ecotourism based on the pawi, which the local community is seeking to develop to follow that on sea turtles. There is concern that visitors to observe the pawi currently do not generally contribute to the economy of the local community. Information on the pawi gained during this project will be used to develop materials for locally-based ecotourism.

Ecotourists watching pawi, Kerrie Naranjit at left; a typical view of wild pawi (two birds, centre and top)





Alexander, G.D. (2002). Observations of the endangered Trinidad piping-guan (Pipile pipile), or Pawi, in northern Trinidad. In Studies in Trinidad and Tobago ornithology honouring Richard ffrench. Eds F.E. Hayes & S.A. Temple. Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, Occ. Paper 11, p 119-130.

BirdLife International (2000). Lynx Ediciones, Barcelona, Spain.

Brooks, D.M. and Strahl, S.D. (2000). Curassows, Guans and Chachalacas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan; IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

James, C and Hislop, G. (1998). Status and Conservation of Two Cracid Species, the Pawi on Trinidad Piping-Guan (Pipile pipile) and the Cocrico (Ortalis ruficanda) in Trinidad and Tobago. Forestry Division, Trinidad.

Naranjit, K. (2010). Knowledge of the Critically Endangered pawi continues to increase. Annual Review of the World Pheasant Association 2009/2010, p 31. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Temple, S.A. (1998). The status of Pipile pipile in Trinidad. In Biology of the piping guans (Aves: Cracidae), Eds D.M. Brooks, F. Olmos & A.J. Begazo, p 13. Special Publication of the Cracid Specialist Group, No. 1. Houston, Texas, USA.

The Pawi Study Group, St. Augustine

Ecological and behavioural research on the pawi is conducted in association with the Pawi Study Group, St. Augustine (PSG). The PSG is a multidisciplinary group established in 2004, under the original chairmanship of Professor John E. Cooper of the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of the West Indies, Trinidad. The Pawi Study Group's mission is "To increase knowledge and understanding of the endemic and endangered Trinidad piping-guan while promoting the conservation of this bird and its habitat through awareness raising and public support". The PSG involves staff and students from other Faculties as well as personnel from the Asa Wright Nature Centre, the Emperor Valley Zoo, the Trinidad & Tobago Field Naturalists' Club and other organisations. Close contact is maintained with the government's Wildlife Section and the Environmental Management Authority, especially regarding legal and ethical aspects of the work. The group is currently chaired by Kerrie Naranjit. A novel part of the group's work is that it involves both zoologists and veterinarians. The veterinary side of the study concentrates on assessing the health of the remaining pawi population. Remarkably little is known about the susceptibility of this species to infectious diseases and yet it is well recognized that viruses, bacteria and parasites can readily decimate small isolated populations of birds. Initial studies on sampling methods are being carried out on captive pawi. Through the assistance of the World Pheasant Association the PSG has obtained two grants, of US$4,000 from Conservation International (CI) and US$5,000 from the American Bird Conservancy and CI, for work on the pawi.

The pawi at the Emperor Valley Zoo, Port of Spain (died 2007); Dr Nadin Thompson swabbing the zoo pawi

The PSG is particularly keen to hear from people who have had experience of the pawi in the wild or in captivity, or have information on its biology or health, or are aware of study skins, eggshells or other specimens in museums or elsewhere that might be available for study. Please contact them through the Chair, Kerrie Naranjit, or see their new website PSG link.

© Copyright 2007-