LIMA, May 13 (UPI) -- Illegal deforestation of habitats is threatening many species of birds living in Peru between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon rainforest, scientists say.
One of the threatened habitats is home to the world's smallest and rarest owls, a species unique to Peru, Inter Press Service reported Friday.
Only 40 people have ever spotted a long-whiskered owlet, Xenoglaux loweryi, in the cloud forests of the Abra Patricia Private Conservation Area in northern Peru.
Before June 2009, only two visitors to the reserve had sighted the owlet, and many keen bird watchers have been disappointed in their attempts to glimpse one.
"Some people wondered 'Does the owlet really exist?'" Jose Altamarino, manager of the park wardens in Abra Patricia, told IPS.
More than 400 bird species sharing the reserve, located between 5,900 and 8,200 feet above sea level, are threatened by illegal activities such as logging that have destroyed more than 7800 acres of the reserve, Altamarino said.
Efforts to combat the illegal logging are not only difficult but can be dangerous, a park ranger said.
"It's dangerous to fight the illegal loggers: they could kill you," Ramiro Galo said, adding it is always the lowliest workers who pay the penalty for illegal activities perpetrated by their employers.
"They never catch the lumber owners," he said.