Can Germany contribute to the conservation of the Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)

A statement by the Bundesamt für Naturschutz (Federal Agency for Nature Conservation) published in Papageien in February 2006.  

When in July 2005 a private individual applied to the Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN) for permission to import Spix‘s Macaws (a breeding pair and a young bird) there was at first surprise and it seemed unlikely that the importation of such birds would be permitted.

However, the applicant established that he had non-commercial intentions and supported the application with his objective to co-operate with the Brazilian authorities (IBAMA) in a breeding programme. Apart from this the application stated that it was intended to make the young male hatched in 2004 available for pairing purposes within the breeding project. The application also included documentation relating to the legality of the breeding pair.

The birds in question were noted in the breeding register of IBAMA and had been legalised by their inclusion in the breeding project managed by IBAMA. The holding conditions described by the applicant had already been inspected by the local responsible nature conservation authorities. The results of the inspection were submitted in writing to the Federal agency as part of an opinion on the matter. The keeping of the birds was expressly approved.

According to a notification of the CITES Secretariat in Switzerland (CITES Notification to the Parties No. 2001/052) all CITES executive authorities worldwide are required to consult with the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) before granting permission for the movement of Spix’s macaws.   

In this matter the BfN as the responsible executive authority in Germany therefore immediately contacted the CITES Secretariat and the CITES executive authority in Switzerland. After assessing the matter these had issued an export permit for the three birds in question with origin code “C”, which meant that the birds in question had met the requirements of CITES Breeding resolution Res. Conf. 10.16 (rev). All the birds had closed rings, the parent birds also carried micro-chips.

Due to the extraordinary situation that the Spix’s macaw is regarded as extinct in the wild, but is, however, listed in Appendix 1 of the Washington Convention (CITES), all involved were conscious of the level of  attention a permit would create in expert circles, national as well as international. Therefore the application was extremely carefully examined and it was also considered what sort of “signal”  would be given from a species conservation aspect with this transfer.

The possibility of supporting the survival chances of the species in captivity by active support of the breeding project and thereby keeping open the option of re-introduction in the wild in

the future were assessed under the aspect “ other requirements of species conservation” and this had carried great weight in the arriving at the decision.

At the same time it was the firm intention of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and also the declared intention of the importer that the birds concerned and their offspring should be excluded from the possibility of commercial usage.

In order to ensure this the BfN laid down comprehensive conditions to restrict a possible import permit and set the importer additional obligations.

In accordance with the CITES notification mentioned above the CITES excutive authority  in Germany informed IBAMA of the intention to import Spix’s macaws and the intended requirements for a possible permit. IBAMA had then agreed to the transfer of the birds to Germany.      

The permit was finally issued with the following impositions:

The imported parrots may only be imported for non-commercial purposes within a breeding programme for the conservation of the species Cyanopsitta spixii and kept or given up with the consent of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. To this end the holding location for the imported parrots was laid down in the import permit. Exception from the selling prohibition, also for the purposes of commercial exhibiting, cannot be granted.  The importer is obligated to keep the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the CITES executive authority in Brazil IBAMA informed about the imported birds and any offspring of this species.

The importer is obliged to co-operate in the breeding programme managed by IBAMA. Offspring of the species Cyanopsitta spixii may only be held for non-commercial purposes and can only be given up with the agreement of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. In addition any offspring may only be used within the species breeding programme managed by IBAMA for the species Cyanopsitta spixii, e.g within a breeding co-operative scheme or for re-introduction into the wild.

For offspring there can be no exception granted from the marketing prohibition. The Federal Agency reserves the right to set additional obligations as well as amend or supplement them with the aim of using the imported parrots as well as any offspring from them in a breeding programme for the conservation of the species Cyanopsitta spixii. After importation the attached conditions set out the further use and rightful ownership of the imported birds and any offspring.

What has happened after the accomplished importation      

In accordance with the conditions the importer independently took up contact with IBAMA immediately after the transfer to Germany, introduced himself as a keeper of Spix’s macaws and expressed his desire for co-operation. IBAMA then invited him and other keepers to a meeting in Brasilia to discuss further co-operation. The Federal Agency was also invited to this meeting. There Germany was expressly thanked for the Federal Agency complying with CITES notification No. 2001/053 and the restrictive conditions for the import permit welcomed.

The BfN committed itself to prior consultation with IBAMA regarding possible further transactions. The discussions were very open. A wide-ranging co-operation on the diagnosis and care for proventricular dilatation desease - PDD, the up-dating of the breeding register and the genetic analysis of individual birds was agreed.   

The breeding stock available to IBAMA consists of a very few birds so that the offer to lend a bird to the breeding project created much interest. The technical preparations and veterinarianl investigations for the transfer of a bird to the breeding project are underway and the draft of an appropriate loan agreement is at present with the competent position in Brazil for legal wording and agreement. All involved hope that in spring 2006 the young bird can be transferred into the breeding project in the presence of a representative of the Brazilian government and that the breeding pair remaining in Germany has further success.

The bird-keeping community was informed about the resulting transfer at the 9th annual convention of the Fonds für bedrohte Papageien (Funds for Threatened Parrots) of the ZGAP on 29th October 2005 in Cologne and in the journal Papageien (November and December issues 2005). Afterwards the BfN received a number of queries and expressions of interest from breeders.

This article should bring transparency to an exceptional importation case and provide information on the circumstances of the permit as well as making the conditions public which were attached to this permit.

Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.

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 " 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)