Spix’s macaw: Rare parrot species thought to be extinct makes surprising comeback

Years of efforts by conservationists to save species from full extinction and bring them back to Brazillian jungles have started to yield results

Stuti Mishra
Monday 11 July 2022 13:37 BST
Spix's macaw has been entirely extinct in the wild since the start of the century
Spix's macaw has been entirely extinct in the wild since the start of the century (Getty)

A species of parrots that went extinct in the wild over two decades ago has made a flying comeback following extensive conservation attempts in Brazil.

Spix’s macaw, known for its vivid blue colours, grey head and black beak, is one of the rarest birds in the world. The macaw species inspired the famous animated film Rio.

It has been entirely extinct in the wild since the start of the century, leaving just a few dozen birds kept in captive breeding programmes.

However, years of efforts by conservationists to save the species from full extinction and bring them back to Brazilian jungles are now starting to yield results.

A flock of Spix’s macaw birds produced from a breeding programme were released in the wild in Brazil last month and more are set to be released later this year, according to The Guardian.

Scientists associated with the programme said their efforts are going well, and despite growing in a protected wildlife refuge, the birds are in good shape.

“They are acting as a flock; they are staying in the vicinity of their release and they are beginning to sample local vegetation. It’s going as well as it possibly could,” biologist Tom White of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and a technical adviser to the rescue project said.

The programme gathered as many birds as they could from around the world, including some that were kept in cages by collectors, and brought them to the macaw wildlife refuge in the northeastern state of Bahia, where a breeding programme was started in 2018 aimed at bringing the blue birds back to Brazillian skies.

Decades of deforestation and rampant wildlife trafficking shrunk the habitat available to medium-sized macaw species and they had to compete for nest spaces. As their numbers fell and the beautiful birds were announced to be critically endangered, more bird collectors started capturing them.

“That loss in numbers had a very unfortunate secondary effect,” Mr White said. “As soon as an animal becomes endangered, collectors want to have one. And that is what happened to the Spix’s macaw. They became rare and, as a result, unscrupulous individuals decided to try to take the few that remained in the wild for their private collections.”

The released macaws are being constantly monitored for their behaviour and survival. The birds have several challenges to face, including adjusting to the wild after being in cages for generations.

But scientists feel confident that the next phase of the plan will strengthen their numbers in the wild and they’ll soon be able to fend for themselves.

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