A successful breeding program saved a species of parrot from the list of extinct species. The birds have now returned to their birthplace in the forests of Brazil.
Last birds standing
The last member of this distinctive parrot species disappeared from the wild twenty years ago, leaving only a few dozen birds in the Cyanopsitte spixii in the cages of collectors around the world.
Spix’s macaws, with their blue plumage contrasting with their gray heads, have made a dazzling comeback, thanks to a remarkable international rescue project.
After being released in Brazil a month ago, a flock of the once extinct species is now flying freely above its former home.
Conservationists hope to release more birds later this year and that the parrots will start breeding in the wild the following spring.
Tom White of the US Fish and Wildlife Service said the project is going extremely well, and it’s been almost a month since the birds were released, and all have survived.
White is also a biologist and technical advisor to the rescue project.
He added that because the birds act like a flock, everything goes as smoothly as possible. They stay close to where they were released and start sampling the local vegetation.
The Spix’s macaw, named after German biologist Johann Baptist Ritter von Spix who collected the first specimen in 1819, was the victim of an environmental double whammy that began in the 19th century.
As agriculture spread across South America, goats and other livestock animals overgrazed the parrot’s natural habitat, shrubs and thorn forest known as Caatinga in the north-east. east of Brazil.
The land has eroded badly and the number of macaws has declined as their habitat has been destroyed.
White explained that losing numbers had a disastrous side effect. Collectors want to own an endangered animal as soon as it becomes available.
This is exactly what happened to the Spix’s macaw.
As they became scarce, unscrupulous individuals decided to try and capture what little was left in the wild for their collections.
Outreach and Rio
The future of the species looked bleak until an animated film revived its fortunes.
“Rio” is the story of a domesticated male Spix’s Macaw named Blu who is taken to Rio de Janeiro to mate with a free-spirited female named Jewel.
“Rio” and its sequel, “Rio 2,” have grossed nearly $1 billion.
Importantly, the films exposed the plight of the species to a global audience.
Later, in 2018, Michel Temer, then President of Brazil, signed a decree establishing a wildlife refuge for macaws in the northeastern state of Bahia, as well as a breeding program using parrots from private collections. in various centers around the world.
The Association for the Conservation of Endangered Parrots, based in Germany, was a key player in this collaboration.
Also Read: 5 Animals Recently Declared Extinct
According to White, the growing sophistication of modern genetics has also played an important role in saving the Spix’s macaw.
White pointed out that inbreeding can be a serious problem when trying to breed animals from a very small surviving population.
However, the techniques used to verify the genetic status of these birds were extremely sophisticated, allowing breeders to carefully match birds.
Artificial insemination has also facilitated the production of offspring for the birds.
As a result, hundreds of Spix’s macaws were bred in captivity, and eight of them were flown to Bahia in June for release.
They weren’t alone: On the same day as Spix’s macaws, eight Illiger’s macaws were released.
White claimed that the Spix macaws we have now are the result of generations of captive breedingwhich dulled some of their instinctive survival skills.
White explained that by combining them with Illiger’s macaws, which are simply wild birds brought into captivity for a short time, Spixes benefit from associating with a native species that is lively and alert, and can show them where they get food and alert them. potential predators.
The birds, which have been fitted with radio transmitters, are now closely monitored.
These birds will all be of breeding age. His team has also made sure that there are several nesting cavities in the area, both natural and man-made, to encourage the birds to start mating next year and eventually establish breeding territories in the area. region.
White concluded his statement by saying that, despite the program’s lofty goals, things are going well so far.
Related Article: Only a Rare ‘Rio’ Parrot Remains
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