Letter to the members of the ZGAP

Published in the ZGAP newsletter in October 1987.

Dear members and friends of the Zoological Society,

The Spix‘s Macaw will be reported on three times in this issue of the newsletter. Is all this space justified for just one endangered species?  We think so, firstly because it shows just how many different fronts must be fought on in order to save a highly endangered species and secondly these three reports highlight what a wide range of activities has developed here in the meantimeWe are proud that the decisive impetus for the present existing measures came from the Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations, but recognise at the same time that all this is impossible to finance with the limited means of our society.   

Admittedly Thomas Arndt was able to hand over more than DM 3,000 in the name of the Society at the recent Spix’s Macaw meeting on Tenerife towards the field work of Dr.Roth. A similar amount was, however, also provided by the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP) and much more was provided for the Spix’s Macaw meeting on the one hand and field work on the other by Wolfgang Kiessling, the owner of Loro Parque, and the World Wildlife Fund - US. At the meeting Mr Arndt also handed over DM 1,000, which we had raised from donations for the conservation project for the Imperial Amazon.  

It should be mentioned at this point that the investigation work of Mr. Vestner in Yugoslavia and the participation of Mr. Arndt at the meeting on Tenerife was entirely financed by each of the gentlemen and the account of the Society was not charged with a single pfennig.   

As we are already on the topic of money it should be mentioned that the council and the - unfortunately few - additional helpers work in their free time and completely without financial recompense for the club. Hardly any money is used for administration activities from members‘ contributions and donation income. Even the considerable postage costs with the exception of those for the newsletter mailings are privately covered.

This newsletter is mainly produced single-handedly and thus the production and mailing costs of some 3 newsletters every year only amount to approximately 20% of each member’s subscription. The remaining 80% goes virtually without reduction to the conservation projects we support. If the membership were doubled or increased three/fourfold the absolute costs for the newsletter would only increase slightly so that with a multiple increase of supporters the percentage for each member’s contribution going directly to conservation could certainly increase to 90% .  

The publishing of 4 or 5 newsletters annually could be financially justifiable with a considerable increase of the membership. We are not lacking in topics and reports to fill ten times the number of pages produced at present - rather more lacking the time for it. The writing of the articles as well as the production and mailing of the newsletters for the past two years has been mainly undertaken by the same three people - Mr Arndt, Mr Sojer and myself. This is all completed in our free time and in addition to all the other work involved in heading the society and overseeing current projects.      

And we are in fact busy with considerably more projects than reflected in the reports in the newsletters.

The activities mentioned in earlier editions for the conservation of the Visoyan spotted deer, Roloway monkey, Gold-bellied Capuchin, the Yellow-cheeked Amazon parrot, etc. are by no means just filed. On the contrary all these projects have come a long way. Zoos have meanwhile made decisive contributions administratively as well as financially with some of these species such as Berlin (West) and Mulhouse for the Visoyan spotted deer, Mulhouse and Rotterdam with the Roloway monkey and Jersey with the Gold-bellied Capuchin.

We are still involved with these projects, but it has become clear with our limited financial resources that our main task lies in focusing attention on little known, highly endangered species, possibly financing with small amounts of money the initial research activities and then seeking out more financially stronger and influential partners. We have followed this route very successfully, in my opinion, with at least some of the above-mentioned species as well as with the Spix’s Macaw. 

There will certainly be those who ask if we are needed as the large international conservation  organisations must have an overview of all the endangered species. This is, however, not the case, not least because given the extent of worldwide environmental destruction even these large organisations do not have enough money or staff  to prevent the species less often in the spotlight slipping through their nets. We have succeeded through our many contacts in numerous countries in tracking down some of these species, which have “slipped through the net”. Fortunately through the efforts of especially dedicated people we are often able with very modest means to supply the data, which is decisive in obtaining further support for a species conservation project from the WWF, zoos or government offices. Sally Walker should be mentioned at this point, who with just DM 800 travelled thousands of kilometres for weeks all over India to establish the status of the highly-endangered Eld’s deer. This project is briefly introduced in this newsletter and we shall report the rather worrying data Sally Walker has collected in more detail in the next issue.

As the meaningful use of relatively small sums of money has become the prevailing topic of this piece I should like to return to the Spix’s Macaw. According to the report by Dr Roth in this issue the guarding of the last two or three free-living Spix’s Macaws for a period of 5 months cost US$ 400, which converts to around DM 800. Some readers may well ask if this sum was sensibly invested after taking into consideration the virtually hopeless situation described by Dr. Roth. We think it is, because although Spix’s Macaws were bred in captivity once, not one of the birds living at present has ever bred.  The pair still in the wild has according to present information bred successfully in the guarded region in the past and could increase the known world population of the Spix’s Macaw faster than the birds kept in aviaries, of which a few have lived in captivity already for several years as potential, but until now unsuccessful “breeding pairs”   

On the other hand this guarding action should also act as a signal. As can be read from the report of Dr. Roth, the guarding action has actually hindered a poaching attempt and deterred a second poacher from daring to attempt such an activity. If there were 10 or more breeding pairs in this region, the guarding action would have only been slightly more expensive. We have proven that the guarding of a highly endangered breeding population of parrots can be carried out with the really modest amount of DM 160 per month and that the committed co-operation of the local people can be won with it

This should give thought to all those, who, on the one hand, are prepared to buy a rare parrot for thousands of marks, but, on the other, also refuse small financial support for the conservation of wild populations on the grounds that it is senseless and just the whim of romantic conservationist fantasists or that small sums can in any event have no effect.

I hope to have shown with these lines that despite the somewhat sparse information, which we have provided to you, dear members and friends of the society, we are actively working to achieve our aims and that we handle the donation monies and members’ contributions entrusted to us carefully and sparingly. Please also assist us in winning more members and supporters for the society.   

Roland Wirth


Latest News

  • Tuesday 9th July 2024

    There is a short interesting article in the July 2024 issue of the German magazine "Papageien" about the setting up of a nature conservation centre for Spix’s Macaws  in the São Paulo zoo. Under the guidance of biologist Fernanda ... Read More »


 " 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)