The origin of pride

origin of the rare approach
child reading newspaper

the st. lucia parrot

On his first day in St. Lucia, Paul Butler hiked to the edge of the Central Forest Reserve, in search of the bird that had brought him there. The brilliantly colorful, endemic St. Lucia parrot, a species at the edge of extinction, drew Butler from his native England, to count the island’s remaining parrots and learn more about the species’ shrinking numbers. By 1977, the St. Lucia parrot had become a rare sight, even for the island locals. Studying the trees through dusk for the parrot’s lime feathers, cherry red chest and brightly burning amber eyes, Butler looked up to finally spot a single St. Lucia parrot cut a clear form against the darkening sky.

However brief, that first sighting lingered with Butler, who would one day be known island-wide as the Parrot Man — the young Englishman who helped save the St. Lucia parrot from extinction.

inspiring our methodology

Since 1979, Rare has run more than 300 Pride campaigns in over 50 countries, created to inspire communities to take pride in their local environment and wildlife, and rally around the protection of their natural resources. Each campaign is rooted in Paul Butler’s early conservation work with the St. Lucia forestry department.

the last 100

In 1977, Butler estimated that only 100 to 150 birds remained in St. Lucia. After studying the parrot’s decline, he submitted recommendations to the forestry department for measures it could put in place to help the parrot population bounce back. The head of the forestry department, Gabriel Charles, decided to make Butler an offer: Come back to St. Lucia, act as a conservation advisor to the forestry department, and help St. Lucia bring its rare bird back to the island’s forests and skies in healthy numbers. Butler accepted.

the key role of communities

He put forth a straightforward set of solutions for protecting the St. Lucia parrot: Revise legislation on the species dating back to 1885, intensify its penalty for killing the parrot — then only five U.S. dollars — and set up a sanctuary for the parrots within an existing forest reserve to protect their habitat.

To pass these conservation measures into law and sustain them long-term, the forestry department would need the public to back them. In the 1970s, the birds were hunted, eaten and trapped as pets, and their habitats were increasingly destroyed by human activity. Upon spotting the bird, the average St. Lucian boy would likely pull out his slingshot and take aim at it. Butler and the forestry department had to figure out how to inspire St. Lucians to connect with the bird emotionally, and embrace the parrot as part of their collective identity.

pride is born

When St. Lucia went independent in 1979, the government declared the St. Lucia parrot as the national bird. Butler and the forestry department used the declaration as a springboard for a public outreach program around the parrot. He and his colleagues messaged the unique value and beauty of the bird to children in classrooms across the island and through radio waves to the public through guest spots at stations. They created a parrot mascot, Jacquot, who gave life to each of their events promoting parrot conservation. They borrowed marketing methods from the private sector and adapted them for local use, featuring the St. Lucia parrot on billboards, bumper stickers, newspaper inserts, stamps, hats, t-shirts, comics, postcards, beer mugs, key rings — soon, the bird was everywhere. 

enduring impact

Steadily, St. Lucia embraced the parrot as a national treasure. Between 1977 and 1988 “the parrot population began its slow but steady rebound,” Butler says. “New laws, and new respect.” The forestry department has seen newly adopted conservation behaviors ripple throughout the island. Now, children come to the forestry department with injured parrots, to find help rehabilitating them.

today pride is stronger than ever

For years, these social marketing tools and their core purpose — tapping into the emotional side of a person’s decision-making process to change their relationship with nature — have evolved within Rare and remain central to our approach. In 1979, Rare took notice of how much St. Lucia valued its endemic parrot, a unique quality in the Caribbean, and asked Butler to replicate his campaign strategy to mobilize communities of other islands to protect their birds, starting with the St. Vincent parrot. Eventually, Butler joined Rare full-time, lending his experiences in the Caribbean to the creation of the Pride program and writing its first manual: Promoting Protection through Pride. Today, Rare Pride campaigns support innovative solutions for sustainable watersheds, coastal fisheries, organic agriculture, and more.