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Brazil’s Endangered Blue Macaw, Recently Declared Extinct, Could Be Set to Make a Comeback



With climate change on the rise and environmental calamities increasing on a previously unknown scale, we’ve become alarmingly used to the dreary drumbeat of horrible news. From Colony Collapse Disorder laying waste to global bee populations to plastic waste killing whales, it would seem the world is headed for disaster with no way to reverse the dire situation.

Take the blue macaw parrot, which calls the Amazon rainforest its home, for example.

The lovely blue bird, which is more accurately known as the Spix’s Macaw, was the subject of the beloved 2011 animated film Rio, which followed the protagonist named Blu–the last living male of his species–as he journeyed from Minnesota to Rio de Janeiro to meet Jewel, the last living female. The two Spix’s Macaws fall in love, mate, and live happily ever after.

Yet in the real world, the plight of the Blue Macaw–known in Brazil as the Ararinha-Azul–has been far less happy. According to a study last year by BirdLife International, the Spix’s Macaw has officially gone extinct in the wild–one of eight species to have disappeared from wildlife due to rampant deforestation, invasive alien species, poaching, and human-driven climate change.

However, reports of its demise as a species–which has been talked about as far back as 2000–may have been slightly exaggerated, as the endangered bird has been the subject of concerted efforts by conservationist groups who are hoping to save the bird and reintroduce it to its natural habitat in the caatinga, or desert vegetation, of northeastern Brazil.

In distant Qatar, the Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation has been foremost among groups paving the way toward rescuing the bird from total extinction, according to The Peninsula.

Speaking at a ceremony in Doha that celebrated the private wildlife refuge’s contribution to saving the Spix’s Macaw, Brazilian Ambassador Roberto Abdalla said:

“These incredible birds have been considered extinct in the wild since 2000, and now only 130 of them find refuge in private institutions in Qatar, Germany, and Brazil, where they have been able to breed and multiply in safety.”

The effort is the result of work spearheaded by the ruling Al Thani dynasty, according to Sheikh Hamad bin Saoud Al Thani who owns of the preserve. Largely resembling a desert oasis–not unlike the Spix’s Macaw’s native habitat–the Al Wabra sanctuary is a lush miniature landscape teeming with palm trees, vegetation, and rare endangered animals from all over the world. Work is overseen by an international team of veterinarians, biologists, and keepers.

When the preservation began working on reviving the Spix’s Macaw, they began with about 15 birds, according to Al Thani. However, the Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation succeeded in breeding no less than 130 birds with most of them soon returning to their natural environment.

Al Thani noted:

“In 2020, about 90 birds of Spix’s Macaw will be released in Brazil and the project will be completed … We have to keep only 40 birds in the Preserve. Our aim is to preserve nature and animals as well as to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the environment.”

The actions of humans in such fragile environs as the Amazon have been responsible for unleashing a myriad of threats against wild animals, with far-reaching and often irreversible effects.

Yet the work of conservationists show that our own species also has the power to revive and heal at least some of the destruction inflicted on the numerous species we share the planet with. With proper resources and dedication, perhaps the Spix’s Macaw’s comeback can be permanent and provide an example of humanity’s power to rebuild and not simply destroy.

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