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Articles & Papers on Psittacine Conservation



The last Spix's macaw disappears 

The World's Rarest Parrot - Disappears from the Wild!

December 1, 2000, Brasilia – The Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Natural Renewable Resources (IBAMA) has informed the conservation community that the last known wild Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) has disappeared. The Spix’s Macaw (also known as the Little Blue Macaw) is considered one of the world’s most endangered species. Until its disappearance, only one remaining male was known to exist in the wild – only in one small arid region of savanna scrubland in Northeastern Brazil known as the “caatinga”.  It is estimated that the last Spix’s Macaw is approximately 19 years of age, so there is great fear that he might have succumbed to a predator or died of an age related illness. He had been observed avoiding hawks in the past year.  It is not known how long this species lives in the wild. But, if its disappearance is confirmed, the Spix’s Macaw will once again be considered extinct in the wild.

Until the re-discovery of this last single bird in 1990, the species was thought to have disappeared. Its rediscovery gave researchers a second chance to study it – as until then, there was little known about this species in the wild. Also at that time, the Brazilian wildlife authorities formed the Permanent Committee for the Recovery of the Spix’s Macaw. The Committee is a diverse group comprised of government officials, ornithologists, zoo specialists, as well as national and international holders of birds in captivity. The mission of this Committee was to save this species from extinction and coordinating the field and the captive breeding program. 

The Ararinha Azul Project (Little Blue Macaw Project) was established by this Committee to study this species in the wild. Researchers of the project  have been monitoring this bird for the last ten years, studying its natural history and working with the community in conservation. They last reported seeing the bird (which is a male) 56 days ago. On a positive note, it appears that there might have been a sighting of this magnificent blue bird less than a month ago by a local farmer. As this is the dry season, there is a possibility that he might have moved to another area in search of food. Therefore, IBAMA and researchers of the project are mounting an intensive search of the region. Three teams made up of researchers and local woodsmen known as “mateiros” will search the area for information and sightings of this last bird.

The last Spix’s macaw had come to symbolize the region and the people of this area. The conservation program has developed into a model of community conservation in this economically distressed region, incorporating local needs with the conservation effort. Projects supported by the Committee have included the building of rural schoolhouses, a hunger relief campaign during a severe drought, range and livestock management extension courses, and even the restoration of a century old theater. Because of this positive community support, it is believed that if the last wild bird disappeared, it is due to natural biological causes and not to trappers. 

With only a single bird in the wild, the recovery of the Spix’s Macaw has always depended on the success or failure of the captive breeding program. Through collaboration between the participants throughout the world, the population has steadily increased to sixty birds (fifty-four are captive-hatched). The program is administered as a single global population with five breeding facilities throughout the world.

The information that the field researchers gathered by studying the last wild bird will be critical to eventually reintroducing captive-bred birds to the area. Therefore, even if the last wild bird is lost, he will have provided much information and insight into how this species survives. This knowledge should help researchers eventually establish a new wild population. With the support from the captive-breeding program, a reintroduction effort is planned for the near future. There is still hope that the bird known as the Spix’s (Little Blue) macaw will once again fly in the wild “caatinga” habitat of Brazil.  xxx  

© Copyright 2000 - 2005 Natasha Schischakin  All Rights Reserved


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