The Spix's Macaw Recovery Committee will be restructured

A report in Issue 60 (March 2001) of Cyanopsitta, the newsletter of the Loro Parque Foundation

(Website editor: I have prefaced this report with the message from Wolfgang Kiessling at the beginning of issue 60)

Message from the founder

Even in my worst nightmares, I could never imagine such a sad way of starting a new year. The last time I addressed myself to you from these very pages, I expressed the hope of overcoming the pitfalls that had befallen the Spix's macaw Recovery project. Unfortunately, this hasn't been case. As in the sea, the reefs only show a small part of the real danger. In the same way, the latest disappointments, instead of disappearing, have opened up a series of great structural problems in the CPRAA (Committee for the Recovery of Spix's Macaw). Maybe some people will be amazed at the appearance of these conflicts, but in my case it wasn't a surprise, but a confirmation of some fears which had began to appear some time ago.

The problems that have been corrupting the integrity of the Committee have been the following: the lack of collaboration of some members of the Committee; opposition to the return of the birds' property to the Government of Brazil; a unilateral way of taking decisions; the selling of birds to non-members of the Committee and so on... All these problems, which are affecting the structure of the CPRAA, were discussed in the special meeting that was held at the end of February in Brazil. And I must say that the way in which the members of the Committee aired their differences was extremely unpleasant and not very edifying, especially when you think of the resources, enthusiasm that Loro Parque and the Foundation have contributed to that forum in the last eleven years. As a result of this development, IBAMA decided to dissolve this Committee for the Recovery of the Spix's macaw in order to create a new structure, with new directives, in the near future.

These events have resulted in great sadness and bitter disappointment. However, we haven't stopped working. Nature is something so extraordinarily important that its conservation cannot be in danger because of the wretchedness of a select few. Since the day we came back from Brazil we have been in touch with key people in order to clarify this situation, and in the following pages you will be able to read, what our position will be.

Thank goodness not a11 moments in life are gloomy: there are also bright moments to fill us with optimism. In this issue of Cyanopsitta, we will announce an event which will bring happiness to the lives of all parrot lovers, the V International Parrot Convention. For those who have had the opportunity of sharing the experiences and excitement with us during previous meetings of the congress, will know what this marvellous event means for Loro Parque and its foundation. And those of you who have never attended it, are going to have a new opportunity in September 2002 to give and receive experiences and knowledge about the world of parrots. We are making great efforts to establish a slogan for the Congress, the topics of the papers and the speakers who will present them. I have no doubt that the next International Parrot Convention will be just as successful and rewarding for its participants as the previous ones.

With my best wishes,

Wolfgang Kiessling

The Spix's Macaw Recovery Committee will be restructured

On 19 and 20 February 2001, the Brazilian government hosted an extraordinary meeting of the Permanent International Committee for the Recovery of the Spix's Macaw (CPRAA), in response to the development the programme has witnessed since the last meeting in Houston in September 1999. The Loro Parque Fundación was represented at the meeting by its President, Wolfgang Kiessling, and its Director, Yves de Soye. The dissent within the CPRAA led the representatives of the government's environmental agency IBAMA to dissolve or restructure the Committee. A new structure and new guidelines to govern the recovery effort will be established by IBAMA within a few months from now.

As briefly explained in the past issue of Cyanopsitta, the Brazilian government called for the extraordinary meeting for several reasons. Foremost, because the principal holder of captive Spix's macaws Antonio de Dios (Birds International Inc., Philippines) had sent four birds to a breeding facility in Qatar, owned by Sheikh Saud-Al Thani, without consultation of the Committee. This happened only a few months after the last CPRAA meeting in Houston. At around this time, Spix's macaws of Mr de Dios were also offered for sale in the USA and Europe. Repeated requests by IBAMA to the Coordinator of the Spix's Macaw Captive Working Group, Natasha Schischakin, who was informed about the transfer to Qatar and visited Sheikh Al-Thani's facility, to submit a report remained unanswered. Moreover, the five birds selected at the Houston meeting that Mr de Dios was supposed to provide for a re-introduction programme have never been transferred to Brazil and in the meantime have become too old for release.

It is important to note that it is only since the Houston meeting in September 1999 that the captive population for the first time was judged large enough to be able to provide birds for re-introduction. That is, only since September 1999 have the holders faced requests that privately owned birds are to be physically returned to Brazil. It now appeared that Mr de Dios at least decided to increasingly become independent. At the meeting in Brasilia, he proposed (via his representative Friedrich Janeczek) that holders should be entitled to manage their birds and distribute birds to new breeding nuclei in an entirely independent manner. A minimum of 10 nuclei each with a minimum of four breeding pairs was proposed. In the LPF's opinion, this scheme would allow the holders to sell a large number of birds to breeding centres of their choice, with a huge corresponding financial benefit. It appears unacceptable that birds are to be sold to a wider group of aviculturists who will have no obligation to consider the preservation of the species as their first and overriding priority.

The CPRAA was also informed by Roland Messer, who in 1999 became a committee member after he purchased 15 of an alleged 20 Spix's macaws owned by Joseph Hämmerli in Switzerland, that the remaining birds were sold to two additional holders: Adolf Indermauer and Mr Itten. Neither of these two is collaborating with the CPRAA.

The CPRAA made clear that the transfer of four Spix's macaws from the Philippines to Qatar constituted a violation of the agreement Mr de Dios signed with the Brazilian government. The Committee was contrived to discuss if and under what conditions an application by Sheikh Al-Thani to become a CPRAA member should be approved. Several parties including the IBAMA representatives favoured a request that the legal ownership of the birds should be returned to the Brazilian government. Mr Janeczek and Mrs Schischakin in contrast argued that he should be made a member of the CPRAA without any conditions being imposed, as this would set an unacceptable precedent for the other holders. The debate about this issue finally led the IBAMA representatives to decide that the recovery committee needed to be restructured, also in the light of the autonomous decision-making by Mr de Dios.

The captive population now faces such a critical situation that it is unacceptable that any female capable of laying eggs is left without a partner for any period of time, particularly as the old female at LPF appears to be approaching the end of her reproductive lifespan. The representatives of Loro Parque Fundación emphasised at the meeting that the recent death of the old male kept at their facilities was result of a natural ageing process, as shown by an exhaustive medical examination.

The Loro Parque Fundación has over the years contributed 600,000 US$ to the recovery programme, and regarded this as top priority within its portfolio of project support. The Spix's macaw is also the logo of the foundation. The LPF totally identified itself with the programme, returned the ownership of its birds to the Brazilian Government, provided advice and financial resources over many years, and in all other respects acted honestly and in good faith. Unfortunately, the most recent meeting of the CPRAA showed a dismissive attitude to all these efforts. The LPF representatives felt that they had been treated with extraordinarily discourtesy and unfairness, by Mrs Schischakin in particular, and they returned from the meeting feeling offended and humiliated.

For all the above reasons, the Loro Parque Fundación is fundamentally reviewing its position. Until the recovery committee is significantly reformed, and a commitment clearly made to the principles of clarity, transparency, fairness, and adherence to agreed rules and procedures, the foundation can no longer participate. The Loro Parque Fundación is therefore awaiting the new structure, which shall be established by IBAMA, as well as the final recommendations about transfers of birds to create new breeding pairs.

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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)