The Spix's Macaw An unpublished report

An unpublished report by British veterinarian George Smith received by Traffic International in October 1990.

(A document prepared by well-known British veterinarian George Smith and received by Traffic International on 2nd October 1990. It has since remained unpublished in the archives of Birdlife International, Cambridge. George Smith had intended to write and publish a book on parrots, for which he had illustrations prepared. He died in 2006 without the book being published in his lifetime)

Ara

Although Ara appears to be a Carib Indian onomatopoeic Lacepede (1799) might have been wholly innocent of this. He probably used it because it gave him the opportunity to scholastically pun in both classical languages.

For the bill is in the shape of a plough-share and the Latin verb ara means to plough (as in, for example, arator a ploughman). Likewise the horrible, grating, harsh macaw voice is brought to attention because, in Ionian Greek, ara means a curse or imprecation.

Finally the malignant, biting, retributional potential of the beak is emphasized by Ara being (in Greek) the goddess of destruction and revenge.

Subgenus Cyanopsittacus

Cyanopsittacus Salvadori (1891) Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum Volume 20, p.150.(Derivation: Kyanos: the Greek for blue and the Latin Psittacus is a parrot).

Bonaparte, in the Revue et Magazine de Zoologie 1834, p. 149, first introduced Cyanopsitta as a sub-generic name within his Macrocercus (the macaws). Like Peters (1937), who thought that the genus Cyanopsittacus has nothing (it is but the blue colouration) to make it worth retention I too have abandoned this generic. Here it is included in Ara and, like Peters, is placed near to Illiger's Macaw (Ara maracana).(As will be seen it does have some considerable resemblance in its skull).

The specific spixii commemorates the German zoologist Johannes Baptiste von Spix who first brought the parrot to scientific notice.

DESCRIPTION

A medium-sized, 250 grammes, very long-tailed, grey, sea-blue, and blue-hued parrot with a smallish bill.I

The colours are particularly difficult to describe; for they so very much depend on the angle and strength of illumination. In her watercolour Jenevora tries to capture this chameleon-like variation in tone by having observed, and sketching, at different times of day, in blazing Brazilian sun and shadow, three live birds and a museum skin.

The general colour is a glaucous-blue. Head, neck and underparts are greyish; the forehead and ear-coverts even more so. The bluer feathers, on the back, rump, upper and under tail-coverts and particularly the upper wing-coverts are a deeper, darker, blue. The breast, wings and tail have a hint of green. All hidden parts of the feathers, including the underside of the tail, are black. The iris is a pale, straw-yellow; whilst the uncovered skin, surroundiag the eyes and the legs and bill, are blackish. Length about 42 cms. Sexes alike.

Male:

Bill: 32.5, 34 mm.

Wing: 264, 272 mm

Tail: 295, 352 mm

Immatures: As adults save that, for the first few months, the iris is dark and the culmen, of the otherwise black bill, has a streak down the front of pale horn-colour.

DISTRIBUTION

So extremely few sightings have been recorded, and so few specimens taken, that even its present range is as conjectural as it was in the pre-Colombian period. As could be inferred from the introductory chapters this blue macaw can only have evolved in an arid habitat. It appears to be confined to the sertao of Brazil wherein it may be exclusive to that special part of this: the caatinga in the States of Bahia, Piaui, Maranhao and Goias.

The map shows how such a small area of Brazil has supplied almost, if not, everyone of the sightings, nestlings and the few museum skins. The collector, working for Spix, who obtained the type specimen, got it from near Joazeiro on the flat banks of the Rio Sao Francisco.

HABITAT

As with the assumed distribution of the Lear's Macaw: that of Spix's is the hot, dry, north-east interior grazing lands of Brazil: the sertao. Because of the irregular uncortainty, and the low total, of the rainfall the climate of this region is distinguished by a general aridity. Only certain elevated areas, the serras, are better watered: these were originally covered with a fairly dense mantle of semideciduous woodland. Except for the serras the natural plant cover is of that peculiar kind of scrub-forest called caatinga. This consists of a drought-resistant vegetation of deciduous shrubs and dwarf trees. The white cast to the leafless branches, during the dry spells, creates, from a distance, an almost frosted-looking appearance. From whence comes the Amerindian name caatinga. Where there is a greater moisture the caatinga can form dense, impenetrable, thickets. In the very driest areas the twisted trees are absent and cacti predominate.

Most rain, if it does happen to fall (for there are occasional years when it fails to arrive) does so between the months of December and April. The average, annual, wetness is 500mm (twenty inches; which, under a hot tropical sun, is miserly. After a deluge grasses spring up, leaves sprout fron the trees and bushes and flowers bloom. Within a few weeks, seldom months, all is again sere; for what little water does not immediately run off, into the temporary water-courses, is soon evaporated away. The leaves fall, the seeds and fruit ripen and, except on the 'islands' of the serras, and the natural and artificially irrigated plots, the earth once again is quite parched.

It should not surprise that the endemic birds, adapted to such a hostile environment, have catastrophically diminished over the past four centuries. For ever since settlement began they have endured an unremitting, one-sided, vicious competition with the introduced livestock, and their graziers. Donkeys, goats, sheep, cattle, fire, axe, and the practice of cooking over wood-charcoal have simplified almost all of the original habitat to a poorer, near-desertified, pasture. Man and beast have not only destroyed but ever prevent the natural regeneration of bushes, trees and herbs. This incessant, vegetational impoverishment has progressively diminished the foods available for the Spix's Macaw. Also it has taken away the larger portion of their tree shelter, together with a very great quantity of nesting sites. During the past few decades the Brazilian government has been putting considerable amounts of money into this impoverished area by building dams. Wherever subsequent irrigation then follows, exactly as with California, in the United States, conditions then have become intolerable for the endemics. The remnants of the native fauna and flora find it fatal, or they quit and alien forms become established.

The belief that this caatinga-adapted bird needs palm-groves of buritizais (thick stands of buriti palms Mauritia flexuosa)may be pure assumption. For Roth (1989) has shown that the caatinga of the Curaca region, had neither. Here, in its only positively known breeding area, the vegetation is predominately composed of xerophytes. Amongst which aro spurges (Euphorbiaceae; such as 'faveleira' Cnidoscolus phyllacanthus and 'pinhao' Jatropha pohliana. The bush 'paudecolher' Maytenus rigida, and two gnarled, small, trees ' catinguerira' Caesalpinia sp. and ' joazeiro' Ziziphus squamosus. There are cacti such as 'facheiro' Cereus squamosus, 'xique-xique' Pilocereus gounellei and species of Opuntia. One striking geological feature, of this particular area cf caatinga, (which was once home to so many Spix’s Macaws) is the number of gouged out transient and partially dried-out water courses. Where these ravined streams have some greater permanence they can be margined with taller trees. Particularly represented amongst which is the ‘craibeira’ Tabebuia caraiba. Most of the information comes from Roth 1989).

BIOLOGY

Roth noted that, within the area of Curaca, mature craibeira trees had a supreme, perhaps an irreplaceable, importance for the bird. They are big, and being taller, their top-most branches were preferentially used as day-time resting, and observation, posts. Those Brazilians involved in the horrid business of extirpation, for the aviary bird trade, when interrogated by Roth (just as those we questioned) insisted that the macaw exclusively nested in holes of ancient specimens of this tree.

The long wings and tail and the observations of all who have seen it wild, inform us that the Spix’s Macaw can fly fast. Indeed the skeletons (Rothschild Bequest Brit. Museum (Nat. Hist. Tring. S/1972:1:79 and AMNH Dept Orn. Skeleton Col 5204) show how disproportionate to its size are the long and strong wing bones; which, in its overall length and strength, exceed those for any comparative sized macaw. Except for the far greater length of tail of Spix's Macaw, in size, it most closely resembles the Patagonian Conure Cyanolyseus patagonus. This, too, lives in open country, flies fast, and is partly nomadic. On comparison the humeri, and the distal, the 'hand' bones of the wing, very closely approximate; but the Spix’s macaw has a longer radius and ulnar.

It is also an extremely wary bird: likely to be off and well away before it can be correctly identified. Logically it can stay only in those areas where there is something to eat. This has to be sufficiently plentiful for it to breed successfully. Like other parrots that inhabit arid areas elsewhere, they must be nomadic and are likely to condense into flocks if they chance upon an abundance of food amid the general scarcity.

The croaking contact call made by my individual was far less strident and certainly far less carrying than that made by similar-sized American parrots. It proved to be totally subservient to the Illiger’s Macaw with which it shared aviary accommodation.

STATUS IN THE WILD AND CAUSES FOR ITS DECLINE

It had been agreed by conservationists (CITES meeting 9th to 21st October 1989 in Lausanne) that there were no more wild Spix’s Macaws. (Yet, in June 1990 an intensive search by Tony Juniper, of the IUCN, found one that was paired to an Illiger’s Macaw A. maracana. Before strongly disputing this capitulation of weak-kneed officials, who wish us to believe that they have fully surveyed and accounted for all, let us consider the evidence. We find out that more RECORDED individuals have surfaced in the past two decades than at any time in all their previous history. Most reports apply to captive birds taken from wild-ranging parents: though, lamentably, this has changed and now concerns adults. 

The entire area where they are believed to exist is vast, extremely inhospitable; unfrequented by travelling ornithologists; the parrot is elusive, wary and sparsely distributed. Between 1819 when Spix received his type-specimen) to 1903 (when Reisnor 1924 saw one caged, and caught a brief glimpse of three, on l8th June, and a pair on 2lst June, all of which were too elusive for him at) no more were recorded in the field.

It was in 1974, but a decade short of the same long period that it was again reported (Sick 1982) followed shortly afterwards, in 1977, by Ridgely (l982). In consequence of the information submitted by Sick, a Swiss ornithologist, Dr Paul Roth was financed by the WWF, ICBP and ZGAP - all conservation bodies) to study the wild bird. Goodness how fortunate we are that they acted when they did; for the investigations Roth made during the three year period 1985 - 1989 came almost too late. The sole population he could find was being destroyed. His report (1989) was so tragically disturbing that the conservationists (to whom it was delivered) did a volte face and seem to have abandoned all attempts to help it in the wild. Posterity might find this irrational response as incomprehensible, as I do. They apostatized and adopted the cause of the psittaculturalists: the very people responsible for bringing the species remnants so near to oblivion.

Before getting to Roth’s dispiriting account we have to understand that the bird had evolved to survive in a harsh environment where even during the most favourable of circumstances the total numbers might never have exceeded more than a few tens of thousands. The population must have been contracting back, and back, over the four centuries of contact with Europeans. Almost beaten into oblivion the Spix’s Macaw has come to depend on a small number of ‘sanctuaries’. These remaining havens still exist because they diminishingly prove to be less attractive for the pastoralists. These asylums are arid, where the ground is deeply fissured and communication and travelling is difficult. Here, in these particularly harsh and unattractive sites, sufficient natural vegetation is retained to supply feeding and, perhaps, breeding needs. One of refuge was found in the vicinity of Curaca.

This had the added advantage of being on private land and the owner seems to have given some protection to the bird. On occasion some macaws might have been shot even though the sparse human population, poverty, inaccessibility, and the birds high natural caution, might help protect them against the gun. The introduced, highly aggressive ‘killer’ African bees might well compete for some of the very few nest-sites. The known constant source of loss in Curaca was the annual removal of nestlings for hand-rearing. How many nests there were in this area cannot be known. My information is that only two were ever found and this could be the maximum owing to the paucity of suitable hole-bearing trees.

Jenevora shows one of the breeding boles of a crabeira tree (from a photograph). The foliage is of one growing in the Sao Paulo botanical garden. As we can read for the Greater Hyacinthine Macaw, in the Brazilian pantanal (and it is likely to also apply for the Spix) it is the scarcity cf suitable nest-chambers that directly determines how nany pairs can breed even when other factors seem most favourable.

Once it became known where the bird originated this particular population was given over to the ruthless professional trapper and, into Curaca, came those who provide stock for the rich psittaculturist; the wealthy captive-parrot-breeder.

The demand for hand-reared chicks has always well-exceeded supply. The price has never fallen. In 1983 it was possible for me, over a leisurely two day period, to examine twelve Spix’s Macaws in Brazilian captivity. As all were tame each must have been taken from the nest and hand-reared. Except for three in Sao Paulo zoological gardens, the others were in private hands. The sexes of none was known. Not one was kept in an aviary suitable for breeding. I was led to form the opinion (from the other birds; the rare primates and talking with the owners) that the main, often the sole incentive for keeping the collection was that all the animals were difficult to obtain and expensive to buy.

That the marmosets and the birds were but objects for ostentatious display.

Contemporaneously the psittaculturalist overseas wanted Spix’s Macaws; but he differed from the wealthy Brazilian in that his prestige would be highest should he get them to breed. In which case tame, unsexed, immatures (needing two, three, perhaps four, years before they might reproduce), although desirable were somewhat less attractive, although cheaper, than a pair of wild taken adults.

Curaca is about eighty kilometres down-river from Juazeiro. When Paul Roth came to make his study he found that, under the enormous pressure for psittacultural possession the thirty or so pairs that were said by the inhabitants, to have originally formed the Curaca population, had by 1986 collapsed to three individuals.

It was one further demonstration of the goose-that-lays-the-golden-eggs syndrome. When the trade in Spix’s Macaws was in the more amateur hands of the local people they were limited taking a few nests of youngsters for hand-rearing annually. Had they given thought to the matter they might have reasoned it to be judicious not to harry the parents or damage the nest-chambers. Certainly such a limited, seasonal, persecution must have made a marginal difference to the status of the wild population. Only a proportion of those taken would have survived to enter the next generation of potential breeders.

But things change. The rapacious outsiders came to Curaca. Unlike the indigens they had a more direct contact with the psittaculturalists. The parrot-breeder is as impatient as he is ruthless and selfish. He would prefer to have an immediate breeding success, for himself, rather than compete or wait for some years for nestlings to grow to maturity. He lusted after wild-taken adults rather than hand-reared juveniles, often with the mistaken, indeed superstitious, belief that a greater expectancy of reproductive success comes from wild-taken birds.

Who, better than the parrot-breeder, knows the urgency; for captivity has proved so lethal for Spix's Macaws. Covertness (brutish, blind, egocentric, greed) when it meritriciously dressed as ‘conservation’ salves the conscience.

The incredibly urgent and selfish demands of the extra-Brazilian psittaculturalist became partly satisfied. An almost guaranteed means of getting the birds out of Brazil via Paraguay, Portugal, Malta and Singapore was established. It took experiment and time and the trappers started cautiously. Between 1977 and 1984 no more than nine adults were abstracted from this, the only known population. The next year it came to an inglorious peak of seven, or eight adults and three to five youngsters. This left just five flying free. A twelfth of the starting numbers. By 1985 these were whittled down to three and, by May 1987, just two. Sometime around Christmas, of that same year, all were taken. (Roth 1989).

Fortunately other populations must exist. That the conservationists have all but washed their hands of the wild bird has given an extra protection to the exploiters. Whilst in Paraguay in October 1988 with Tony Silva, who interpreted throughout) I had the opportunity to question a young trapper who was delivering other Brazilian parrots to a dealer. It was learnt that he knew of three or four breeding pairs. He could, if we wanted, supply us with parents and their chicks. The price he asked was seven thousand, five hundred American dollars, per nest (chicks and parents) delivered to Paraguay.

On the other hand, if we could travel with him and pay the cost of the expedition, the price could be as low as $ 2,500 per nest with eggs and higher if there were chicks. Adults would cost us more. The reason for the lower fee was that we would have to smuggle the birds out of the sertao and into Paraguay. Whether eggs, chicks or the parents survived the return journey was to be our entire responsibility. As no payment was to be made until after we had returned back to Sao Paulo it sounded true. The total costs of the expedition would be not more than a thousand dollars. Travel, in that part of the world, is by bus.

In March 1990, I was informed that a dealer, in Paraguay, was able to offer a freshly wild-taken adult. There has to be a considerable difficulty in trying to ascertain, with an absolute certainty, over such a large thinly populated area with so few roads, and a sweltering climate, whether such a flighty semi-nomadic macaw is totally absent. How many remain can be but a guess. Shy, secretive and strong-winged I have reasons to suspect that there are still some in the wild.

FOODS

The captives I’ve seen and that includes a four year daily observation of a single male, allows me to say that they seem to have less power to their bite than most other similarly sized parrots. For example, Illiger’s macaw, which is of about the same body size, can usually crack open all but the hardest of hawthorn Crataegus monogyna seeds. However, despite spending time and effort attempting this, my male only succeeded with exceptionally few. This is bourne out from an examination of the skull which, for the size of the parrot, is slender and does not have the added strength given by a closed orbit.

The local people said to Roth (1989) that they principally fed from the spurges ‘faveleira’ Onidossolus phyllacanthus and pinhao Jatropha pohliana. Other fruits and seeds must be taken. He mentions the trees joazeiro Ziziphus joazeiro and the pau-de-colher Maytenus rigida (?)

CAPTIVE HISTORY

This macaw has a unique charm; unique colouration; has ever maintained an extremely rare place in captivity; and it has always been expensive to buy. My suggestion is that, in consequence, perhaps, of these four points, a high proportion of the captives might have been recorded. Every one of the earlier examples were nestlings when acquired. The exceptions are the more recently acquired pairs, taken as breeding birds from the wild. These are those held at Loro Parque Tenerife, Canary Islands, the two breeding pairs in the Switzerland and the survivors of another pair in the Philippines. (Website editor: Although the breeding pairs in Switzerland and the Phillippines were indeed wild-caught adult birds ordered by the breeders concerned, the pair at Loro Parque, although wild-caught, came into the possession of Loro Parque by a different route. They were already in Europe and were not strictly speaking illegally acquired by the Spanish organisation. Wolfgang Kiessling acquired them as he believed they would be better off in his well-organised breeding facility in Tenerife than an unsuitable aviary elsewhere.) Proof is their wildness. The earlier birds were all tame and they came in twos or, less commonly, in threes.

The first reference that I can find (Sclater 1878) to a captive is of one bought by the Zoological Society of London for exhibition purposes. As this bird, the first bird that they had, was acquired from the Jardin d’Acclimation in November it and perhaps its siblings, might well have been shown in Paris for some months previous to then.

The nest the London Zoo had was received on the nineteenth of November 1894 and died early in April 1900. This bird was bought by the Hon. Walter Rothschild and the skin (474107) is to be found in the American Museum of Natural History, New York. Others might have trickled in but the first reference (Dutton 1898) to a more generalised importation is that of an exhibit in a cage-bird show. The reason for its display was that it was a very unique novelty; for the appalling state of its featheration would have eliminated it from competition. Two years after this Dutton (1900) had one. Perhaps it was the same bird: for it too had defective feathering.

About this time the Berlin Zoological Garden had ten species of macaws on exhibit. They included a full-hand of the blue macaws: Spix’s, the Greater Hyacinthine Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus; Glaucous A.g.glaucus; and Lear’s Macaw A.g.leari. As the reporter (Blaaw 1900) remarked only on the great rarity of Buffon’s Macaw Ara militaris ambigua; it might indicate that sufficient Spix’s Macaws had already entered Europe around then to have made them less alluring.

The third that the London Zoo had was received on 21st June 1901. It died a year later (8th August according to the label on its skeleton). The brevity of its existence is confirmed by Mitchell (1911)in his summary of the longevity of the zoo’s exhibits. It is fortunate that the three were held at a time when either the zoo kept its own museum, or that collectors were seeking rara avis.All have been preserved and were bought, at some time, by the Hon. Walter Rothschild. The last of the trio may not have had good feathering; for it was saved as a skeleton. When the collection of zoo memorabilia was ultimately sold its bones went first to Lord Walter Rothschild and, by his bequest, then to the British Museum.It is the skull of this bird, as well as the one in the American Museum of Natural History, that forms the study for our pencil sketch.

How many others, if any, that arrived over the next two decades, cannot be known. The next report (Seth-Smith 1926a) is of one from Paignton Zoo in Devon. In the same year Miss Louise Washington, in the States, had an immature male, which died and has been preserved (AMNH 229055). There was another; for the American Museum of Natural History preserved its skeleton. Three are mentioned the next year (Seth-Smith 1927, Hopkinson 1927) of which Paignton Zoo had two. In 1928 Chapman’s, the well-known animal importers, must have had at least one youngster; as its tailless corpse was delivered to Roland Ward, the London taxidermist (21st August) and sold to Rothschild (AMNH 474108). Perhaps Chapman’s handled more; for Tavistock (1929) wrote that although they were formerly very rare, a few had been brought over ‘in recent years’.

In the United States Plath, who was then a curator of birds for the Zoological Society of Chicago, obtained one in exchange for a Thick-billed Parrot Rhynchopsitta pachyrhynchos. (Louis Ruhe Inc., the New York dealers, who made the exchange, considered both to be equally uncommon.) Several references (Plath 1930, 1934, 1937 and 1969) are made to this bird. It is said that no Spix were imported prior to 1927 and that few, if any, came afterwards. One that did has been preserved (AMNH 446783). Its skin bears labels, which tell us that it was in Mr W.C. Arnold’s aviary for some time. And upon its death was mounted. In December 1935 this was given by Mrs Edward W.C. Arnold of Babylon, NY, to the museum and turned into a skin.

Plath’s bird, which was killed by a pair of Amazon parrots on 11th March 1946, has the greatest recorded longevity for this species as a captive. The second longest survivor, up to then, might have been the two that the London Zoo had before 1911 (Mitchell 1911) for both lived for a few months over five years.

How many more this zoo subsequently acquired in the next two decades is not known, but on view in the newly constructed parrot house, were at least one ‘pair’ of Spix’s Macaws (Prestwich 1930). Contemporaneously to these Whitley, who owned Paignton Zoo, had at least two others (Hopkinson 1931). It may have been one of these that was shown together with another owned by Maxwell at the Crystal Palace the next year (Prestwich 1932). Another was to be found in Liverpool Zoo (Stokes 1932).

The near-universal ban on importation of parrots following the human psittacosis pandemic of 1929 and 1930 must have prevented further Spix's Macaws entering into most of Europe and North America. Restrictions on parrot importation began to be lifted a few years after the end of the 1939 - 45 war. From then on desultory birds came in: particularly to Portugal. One such pair of hand-reared birds was acquired by Alfredo Marques in 1960, or thereabouts. After maturing they laid many clutches of fertile eggs. They were then loaned out to Sir Crawford McCullogh who lived in Northern Ireland, overlooking Belfast Loch. Before he died (in 1974) they had bred more times, even though no youngsters were reared. The surviving hen was then sold, by Marques, to Naples (which, at the time, had two others).

In 1975 I bought, for £350, a male Spix’s Macaw from Snr. Coehlo in Portugal. It was said to be three years old and had a permanent limp from having been suspended from a tethered leg. The sibling, with which it had been imported, had died the year previously. As the restriction on trade in endangered species made it impossible to obtain a mate the macaw was loaned in 1980 to Walsrode Zoo in West Germany to pair with their surviving bird. My bird died in 1989. Despite my request (at the time of loaning) to preserve it as a skeleton – which would have been scientifically useful – it was stuffed.

One of the most notorious of exports was the two nestlings imported into the UK in 1979 from Paraguay. They escaped CITES regulations by deceptively being described as being blue mutations of the Quaker Conure Myiopsittacus monachus. After a few weeks in the United Kingdom they were dispatched to Mr Burkey in the United States. (Website editor: one of these nestlings was Presley, now repatriated to Brazil and located at the Lymington Foundation in the expert care of Linda and Bill Wittkoff). When shown the two (I believe that it was in February when I photographed them) it was said by Gordon Cooke, the importer, that for £3,500 it was possible for me to obtain three further nestlings from Paraguay. One of which was in frail health. The three would not be split. This trio soon went to Walsrode. It was the sole survivor of these that was the inducement for loaning them my solitary bird.

Now that Europe was effectively sealed other outlets were found. Birds could still get into Portugal.

ETCETERA

CONSERVATION

If this bird is to survive into the future the first essential

must be to understand that some do remain in the wild. It is premature, presumptive, and wrong to say that there are no more. Such forlorn helplessness presently leaves the field absolutely free for the trappers. When young are taken they are then smuggled out to be passed off as captive bred. Such an indifferent attitude by 'conservationists', at a time when every thing is so particularly critical is scandalous. Cash must be made available for a serious ornithological search and expedition. To preserve it in the wild we must have more knowledge about its ecology.

Salvation is hardly likely to come from psittaculture. Is it not the demand for aviary material that has been the active cause of the population wilt? It is hypocritical to suggest that captive breeding can be beneficial. As an example should they be bred in any number will their future progeny ever get to be loosed back into the wild? The reverse for whilst any remain free the psittaculturalist will be forever hankering for more.

To believe that the only future for the Spix’s Macaw is by captive breeding is as ridiculous as believing that it would have been excellent if the Roman senate had given the municipal firemen tickets and a paid day off so they could have listened to a violin recital by Nero. Every bird in captivity, or its immediate ancestor, has been illegally taken. The wild has been pauperised by their loss. Captive breeding can only be useful to give us knowledge about captives. Conservation for a bird so specialised for existence in such a particularly harsh habitat can only be done by preserving its biotype.

What is absolutely certain is that every captive should be registered and coded. This may help to prevent further examples being taken provided that stiff penalties of enforcement also follow. The intention is to stop trapping by eliminating the market. There should also be an annual assessment of this captive population and this needs to be published and interpreted in an easily accessible journal.

End of document

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Quotes

 " 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)