New Survey Finds Species on Brink of Extinction Growing in Numbers – Now Up to 750 birds
The Lear’s Macaw, one of the most spectacular of the world’s parrots, now numbers more than 750 birds thanks to the protection of the species’ primary breeding area in Brazil. The Lear’s Macaw had only 70 surviving individuals left in the wild in late 1980’s.
“This is a remarkable success story – a species on the brink of extinction is now rebounding because its nesting grounds were protected,” said Michael J. Parr, Vice President of American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and co-author of A Guide to the Parrots of the World.
The count of the Lear’s Macaw population was undertaken by Fundação Biodiversitas staff in June 2007 at the Canudos Biological Station in Brazil, a reserve supported by ABC. A total of 751 individuals were counted as they flew out of the canyons where they roost and nest to their licuri palm feeding areas. The global population in 1987 was just 70 birds, the 2003 census was 455, and until last month’s count, the current population was estimated at 600.
The Lear’s Macaw is found only in the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil, where it nests on spectacular sandstone cliffs and feeds primarily on licuri palm nuts. The species is currently threatened by hunting and the illegal pet trade.
With the support of ABC, Biodiversitas has acquired properties to expand the Canudos Biological Station to a 3,600 acre nature reserve, a ten-fold increase from its original size. Currently, this represents the sole protected area for this Critically Endangered species.
“The protection of such a vital site for the Lear’s Macaw, through the expansion of the Canudos Biological Station, is a huge step towards the preservation of the species,” said Eduardo Figueiredo, Coordinator of the Biodiversitas Lear’s Macaw Conservation Program. “The growing population confirms how essential it is to protect an endangered species’ habitat.”
For 18 years, Biodiversitas has protected the Lear’s Macaw colony in the state of Bahia. Now the conservation group is implementing protective measures for the reserve, and aims to secure additional dry forest areas that are vital for the species feeding. In addition, the project involves extensive environmental education, through both ecotourism and improving pride and understanding of the natural ecosystem among local people.
The Lear’s Macaw and the protection of its habitat are priorities for the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE), a global initiative that seeks to protect threatened species that depend on single sites for their survival. The goal of the Alliance is to create a front line of defense against extinction by eliminating threats and restoring habitat to allow species populations to rebound.
“This spectacular blue macaw is on the road to recovery but still faces several severe threats to its existence in the wild before it can be removed from the AZE list,” said Michael Parr. “To consolidate protection efforts, expand the reserve and secure a bright future for the species, an additional $140,000 is needed to complete the Lear’s Macaw conservation project.”