Crocheted parrots are serving a double lifeline role – they provide a livelihood for the women who knit the cute toy birds whilst also helping raise funds to save the endangered Cape Parrot species.

The women of Ukuthunga Handmade, a self-sustaining non-profit community-based organisation, make crocheted toys and home decor items in Msholozi, outside White River in Mpumalanga. Their handiwork helps to put food on the tables for their families.

The proceeds from the sale of the hand-crafted Cape Parrot “knitties” also help to conserve the Cape Parrot.  The Cape Parrot appears nowhere else in the world. There are less than 2000 remaining in the wild, with current threats to the species including degradation of the Yellowwood forests, their natural habitat. This means the loss of food and nesting sites. The Cape Parrot has been selected by BirdLife South Africa as 2023’s Bird of the Year.

The Wild Bird Trust’s Cape Parrot Project has partnered with Ukuthunga Handmade to supply crocheted male and female Cape Parrots. Funds raised through this initiative allows the project to conduct research to fill key knowledge gaps and implement conservation action, including empowering local community members.

The project supports community nurseries to grow up indigenous tree seedlings, which the Project then buys back for their restoration activities. The seedlings are planted back into degraded forest habitats, by the partnering local communities to restore forest habitats.

Ukuthunga employs about 60 women from the various communities in Mpumalanga.

Many of these women joined Ukuthunga Handmade in order to gain new skills, build a sense of value and belonging, and provide entirely for their family through crocheting.

Dr Kirsten Wimberger, director of the Cape Parrot Project and trustee of the Wild Bird Trust said; “Each crocheted male and female Cape Parrot is different from the other, making it a one-of-a-kind crocheted toy.

“Given that many women exclusively rely on crocheting for income, we are happy to be partnering with Ukuthunga Handmade because it will enable us to benefit numerous disadvantaged families in various communities.”

This women’s month the Cape Parrot Project are proud to honour these women.

Lucia Mkhabele, one of the women working at Ukuthunga Handmade said: “I enjoy crocheting because it is an art that can be used to create new things.

“My husband and I lost our jobs at a restaurant during Covid-19. To help my family, I was inspired to join Ukuthunga Handmade. I am a mother of six children and a breadwinner to my family.”

Mkhabele said she received assistance with crocheting from various women in the group which further developed my skill to crocheting.

“Crocheting a place mat takes two hours, while a Cape Parrot takes three to four hours because I am more experienced. I love to crochet.” said Mkhabele.

Wimberger said the public can purchase the ‘knitties’ via our e-store




The Wild Bird Trust was founded in South Africa in 2009 by Dr Rutledge “Steve” Boyes with the primary objective of keeping birds safe in the wild by securing critical habitat for the benefit of ecosystems, wildlife and people in perpetuity. The initial project was the Cape Parrot Project, based in Hogsback, where Dr Boyes lived while he undertook his research on these parrots. Since then, the Wild Bird Trust has grown to accommodate more projects and in 2014, the Okavango Wilderness Project was launched. This is a multi-year collaboration agreement with the National Geographic Society becoming the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project, with a commitment to help conserve the iconic Okavango Delta by protecting the headwaters in Angola upon which it depends.



The Cape Parrot is South Africa’s only endemic parrot. The species is endangered due to destruction and degradation of their forest habitat. The Cape Parrot Project aims to conserve the Cape Parrot through research and habitat restoration efforts, with community involvement being viewed as an integral part of our future success. BirdLife South Africa has named the Cape Parrot “2023 Bird of the Year” and has created beautiful material to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the Cape Parrot. For more information: