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Sat Mar 21, 2020, 10:05 AM

52 Captive-Bred Spix Macaws, Extinct In The Wild, Return To Brazil, Though Not w/o Controversy

The town of Curaçá in Brazil’s of Bahia state lost its last wild Spix’s macaws (Cyanopsitta spixii) two decades ago. So there was a large celebration when, on March 3 this year, 52 of the parrots, bred in captivity, were brought back here to their native region. The macaw was declared extinct in the wild in 2000, a victim of wildlife trafficking and symbol of the ongoing struggle to conserve Brazil’s biodiversity. But there’s a shadow hanging over their return, cast by the controversial organization that bred them and continues to wield outsize influence over their fate.

The birds brought to Bahia (26 males and 26 females) are the result of a successful captive-breeding program by the Germany-based Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots e. V. (ACTP), which has partnered with the Brazilian government. The event was considered so important that the minister of the environment, Ricardo Salles, was in Petrolina, Pernambuco state, to receive the macaws alongside ACTP head Martin Guth and other Brazilian authorities.

Bringing the birds to Brazil is part of the National Plan of Action for the Conservation of the Spix’s Macaw, coordinated by the Chico Mendes Institute of Conservation and Biodiversity (ICMBio), which is affiliated with the Ministry of the Environment. Two other international agencies are also involved in the repatriation program: Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation of Qatar and the Pairi Daiza Foundation of Belgium. The latter is partnered with a zoo of the same name in Brugelette, Belgium, where four Spix’s macaws are on display — the only ones in Europe available for public viewing.

The birds’ destination, for now, is a reintroduction center built for them in Curaçá. According to the ICMBio, the “German” Spix’s macaws will likely be released in the wild sometime next year, following an adaptation process. When this happens, it will be in the two conservation reserves created by the federal government in 2018 exclusively for the reintroduction and protection of the species: the Spix’s Macaw Wildlife Refuge (which spans 29,200 hectares, or 72,200 acres), and the Spix’s Macaw Environmental Protection Area (90,600 hectares, or 223,800 acres).



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