Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii)

A report by Anton Sojer to the membership of the ZGAP in March 1989        translated by the website editor

We should like to inform you with this report about the progress of the project, which we have been involved in since July 1986 and despite our modest means still continue to support with quite considerable resources.

At this point we should like to thank Dr Hans Strunden for his financial commitment even if he does not like to see it mentioned. The budget of the Zoological Society for the Spix’s Macaw project is almost entirely covered by him. Perhaps more “parrot-lovers” should consider whether the topic “Parrot” can really be so fascinating if a lot of money is used to try to complete the “postage stamp collection” or if it would not make more sense to use “surplus” cash for the conservation of these creatures.

 As we could see from the preliminary final report by Dr Roth, who returned to Europe in September 1988, in the case of the Spix’s Macaw we have to continue to deal with these „stamp-collectors“. The illustration with this report, which shows the last remaining specimens of the Curaçá population, is possibly the last photograph of these parrots in the wild as these Spix’s Macaws were captured for a dealer from Petrolina.

The poacher was accompanied by several armed men, as they expected resistance from the local people (we financed the guarding of the birds until May 1987), 

The hopes of finding further populations were unfortunately not fulfilled after several journeys by Dr. Roth. On the one hand various reported sightings were discovered to be confusions with - at least from a distance - similar species such asAra manilata and Ara maracana and on the other hand Dr Roth was deliberately provided with false information.

From today’s perspective  the decisive pointer to the now extinct Curaçá population, which came from a animal trader, was only provided as a diversion from “better” occurrences. 

Apart from this indication there are others pointing to the existence of further populations. Even if only a part of the sightings reported were actually true, the entire distribution area of the Spix’s macaw covers some 300,000 sq. kms (the Federal Republic of Germany is some 248,000 sq. kms) of which some 80,000 sq. km has the same vegetation type as the Curaçá area. The region is only thinly populated and mainly inaccessible. The habitat of the Spix’s macaw is therefore still intact. Under these circumstances further occurrence in small numbers is probable.

At this point I should like to make a little digression which shows that even conservation organisations do not have a monopoly over wisdom. When we were trying to raise finance for a 4-wheel drive vehicle for the project, we applied to a large German organisation. Our request was fobbed off with the advice that we should in future only concern ourselves with “biotope conservation”. The conservation of endangered species in an intact habitat appears no longer required. Then another organisation - WWF,USA – declared itself ready to absorb the costs. The vehicle is being used in Brazil since the return of Dr Roth for the “Lear’s Macaw” project.

An additional indication for the continuing occurrence of  the Spix’s macaw lies in the offers of sale, which keep turning up. One could, of course, assume that most of these offers arise from braggarts or are just for testing the market. There are, however, dealers among the people offering, who in earlier times actually provided birds and in these circles only make “serious” offers. Both the young birds, which were confiscated in Paraguay in 1988, were supplied by a dealer from Curitiba. These Spix’s macaws came from another distribution area, that is only known to the poachers and dealers involved in illegal wildlife trade. In order to avoid losing the race as with the Curaçá population, it is urgently necessary to intensify the search for the sake of conservation. A “one-man band” like Roth has absolutely no chance when in the meantime DM 60,000 is the price of a pair. 

The co-ordination of the project is now in the hands of the ICBP (International Council for Bird Preservation) and has high priority there. If finding the  means in this international grouping is successful as, for example, in the case of the Imperial Amazon conservation project, then conservation has a real chance. Should this not succeed, it will then be necessary to add a verse to the lament on the Cuban Macaw, Carolina Parakeet and Paradise Parrot.

Apart from the efforts to conserve the species in the wild, we have been involved since 1986 in a breeding project for the Spix’s Macaw in captivity. As reported in the issue of the newsletter dated October 1987 a meeting to this end took place at Loro Parque, Tenerife. Although the results of this meeting were mocked by outsiders, as only one keeper, W. Kiessling, the owner of Loro Parque, took part, the results we have now are worthwhile. All the birds existing outside Brazil have been brought into the project under the conditions set out by U. Seal (IUCN - . International Union for Conservation of Nature). These are A.M. de Dios, Queyon 6 birds (two of which were bred there in 1988), Loro Parque Tenerife 2 birds, Birdpark Walsrode 1 bird.

Other specimens, which still existed in 1986/1987, have died since (e.g Naples Zoo). In a few cases it has been established that the livestock never existed (e.g  4 birds in the private zoo of Tito).

The situation with the Spix’s macaws held in Brazil is unfortunately not very good. At the present time there appear to be only some 10 specimens.  

Unfortunately up till now none of the keepers there have declared themselves prepared to take part in the project. That means there are only 9 birds available for the establishment of a captive population, and it is feared that some of these are closely related. This underlines the importance of continuing the conservation project in the wild, as this will be the only possible way for the survival of this species. 

Should you be interested in further details, please contact us. We can also provide contact to the ICBP, which now oversees this project.

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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)