Over the last 25 years, Mexico’s conservation efforts have brought the quetzal back from the brink of extinction, tripling its numbers according to Mexican Environment Secretariat, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada. The quetzal is a green medium-size bird with iridescent plumage on its back, chest, head and wing coverts.
It is now possible “to see a greater number flying freely” in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, said the Secretariat in a statement.
Quetzals have been breeding in captivity at El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, which currently has an estimated population of three specimens of the species for every 16 hectares (40 acres), unlike 25 years ago when only one bird would be found on the same amount of land, the organization said.
Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada said the only place these beautiful birds can be observed in the wild is on the Sierra Madre mountains of Chiapas and the area bordering Chimalapas in the state of Oaxaca. The quetzal once thrived from Chiriqui in Panama to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca at an altitude above 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) in humid cloud forests with more than 3,000 millimeters (118 inches) of rainfall per year.
The quetzal holds much symbolic meaning to Mesoamerica and was considered the representation of the gods Quetzalcoatl and Kukulkan, the “plumed serpent,” since in flight the undulation of the bird’s long tail feathers resembled the movements of a snake.