For several years the Loro Parque Fundación of Tenerife, Spain has maintained a pair of Spix's Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) in its conservation breeding centre. This is the most important species in the centre which otherwise, with approximately 350 different parrot species and sub-species, is the most diverse parrot collection in the world. Native to north-eastern Brazil, the Spix's Macaw became extinct in the wild in 2000, and the pair was provided for breeding reasons to the Loro Parque Fundación by the Brazilian government. However, for years the birds did not have any success in breeding, and a general examination carried out by the veterinarians of Loro Parque showed that the male was up to 95% infertile.
For this reason, the director of Loro Parque's animal clinic, Dr. Lorenzo Crosta, travelled at the end of November 2003 to Sao Paulo Zoo in Brazil in order to examine precisely three males which were considered for exchange. He took with him to Brazil the supposed infertile male, with the possibility that the infertility could reverse in different surroundings. On the basis of an endoscopy, Lorenzo Crosta decided in favour of an eight-year old Spix's Macaw male, which he brought back to Tenerife at the beginning of December 2003.
The new male spent some time in quarantine and on January 8, 2004 he was brought together with the available Spix's Macaw female in a big new flight aviary. After very little time the birds paired together and soon showed significant indications of pair-bonding. From the middle of March both examined in detail the different nesting possibilities installed in the aviary. As all nest boxes, as well as the whole aviary are equipped with infrared cameras, all activities of these birds can be monitored perfectly from a secure distance without disturbing the pair.
As this pair completed the stage of finding a nest, it decided on one nest box and inhabited only this one, the other boxes being completely ignored. For about three weeks the pair was working away on the wooden litter of the nest box, and gnawing on the added pieces of wood until it was finally finished. On Tuesday, May 11 between 6 pm and 7 pm, under the gaze of the camera, the most important egg of the year was laid. It is remarkable how fast the birds of this pair adapted to each other, having only been together since January 8.
As they were inexperienced birds concerning breeding, a reliable pair of Chestnut-Fronted Macaw (Ara severa) were first put in charge of both eggs. These birds were exemplary in incubating the clutch. Two eggs of a different species were given to the Spix's Macaw pair so that they could incubate for some more days. Then after 10 days these eggs were removed in order to stimulate a following clutch from the Spix's Macaws which will remain with this pair.
In total two eggs were laid and, while the second egg turned out to be fertile, the first egg was unfortunately infertile. With excitement the entire Loro Parque Fundación team was waiting for the grand day of hatching. Finally on June 9, this great event happened. During a nest control the newly hatched Spix's Macaw chick was discovered in the nest of the adoptive parents with a weight of 12,5 g and a perfect appearance. Although the nest was controlled daily in the morning, for safety reasons the chick was removed and raised by hand from the fourth day. Even though the chick was fed, it was insufficiently warmed and therefore too cool. On the fourth day the chick weighed 15,4 g. This young Spix's Macaw being raised by hand is now growing magnificently and already weighs 64 g on its 13th living day. The voice begging for food during feeding is getting stronger and the indications are for a proper development. Within the coming days a chick of Illiger's Macaw (Propyrrhura maracana) will join the young Spix's Macaw in order to eliminate the risk of a false imprinting in relation to humans.
This apparent first breeding success after many years is, within the official breeding programme, an important step towards the conservation of this parrot species, which is eventually intended to be reintroduced back into its native habitat. Only nine adult Spix's Macaw are actually kept in zoos worldwide. One pair is at Loro Parque on Tenerife and seven other birds are in the zoo of Sao Paulo in Brazil. At the moment the pair in Loro Parque is the only currently breeding pair in the conservation breeding programme. We hope that further breeding success will follow in the near future.
" Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret "
( If you drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will soon find a way back)
Horace (65-8 BC)