Gonzalo "Gonza" Cardona Molina dedicated his career to protecting the yellow-eared parrot and other species.
  • A Colombian conservationist who saved a species of parrot from extinction has been killed.
  • Gonzalo "Gonza" Cardona Molina disappeared in early January. Days later he was reported dead. 
  • He was often threatened by the military and armed groups who opposed his work to protect the birds.
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Gonzalo Cardona Molina, the conservationist knows as Gonza, was killed by an unknown Colombian gang, the City Paper Bogota reported.

Molina, 55, was the coordinator of Reserva Loros Andinos at Fundación ProAves, where he had worked since it was founded in 1998, according to the foundation. 

For more than 20 years, Molina dedicated his career to saving the yellow-eared parrot from extinction in Colombia. 

He did this by fighting against the hunting of these birds and the destruction of their habitats.

His love of the birds and work to keep them safe often put him in life-threatening situations, according to the foundation. He's sometimes wind up in skirmishes between the military and guerrilla groups, according to Fundación ProAves,

Despite the threats against his life, Cardona carried on.  In his last days alive in December, he completed a national census and counted 2,895 yellow-eared and blue-crowned parrots in existence. 

"There would be no Yellow-eared Parrots without him", Sara Inés Lara, Executive Director of Fundación ProAves, told Forbes in a statement.

When Cardona began his work, the parrot was considered critically endangered, but in 2010 their status was downgraded to endangered after more than 1,000 of the birds had been counted, according to Forbes.

Aside from protecting the bird itself, Cardona worked to ensure the wax palm, a rare tree that the parrots depend on, survives, according to the foundation. 

The number of these trees was dramatically reduced because they are often harvested for fruits that are then fed to livestock. 

In a short bio on the foundation's website, Cardona said that one of the most challenging part of his job has been working with members of the community because sometimes he has not been treated as he expected. 

Cardona, who was born in the the town of Roncesvalles in Tolima, Colombia, was reported missing on January 8.

Colombian media reported on January 13 he had been killed by an unidentified armed group.  

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