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Blue-throated Macaw Conservation Program

Status: Critically Endangered.

Wild population: 110-130 known individuals.

Where found: Occurs only in the seasonally flooded savannahs in Llanos de Mojos in northern Bolivia, being concentrated east of the upper Río Mamoré, Beni.

History:
According to locals the wild population of the Blue-throated Macaw in the 1980s was thought to number 500-1000 individuals. Then, by the end of the decade the birds had all but disappeared. In 1992 they were rediscovered, but within a few short years the birds were caught to near-extinction by trappers for the pet trade, leaving a small population scattered over a wide area of habitat. The potential of the wild-bird trade to quickly destroy the last remaining wild population of Blue-throated Macaws is a serious issue. Although trapping ceased later in the 1990s, the wild population remains low, with estimates of between 110-130 individuals. The trend over the past three generations has been negative and declines of over 80% are suspected.

Threats:

  • Intensive harvesting of these birds, which occurred in the late 1970s through early 1990s
  • Nest trees which have disappeared because of burning and clearing for farming
  • Nest failure from predation by other animals
  • Extreme weather patterns (flooding and drought) causing the loss of eggs and chicks in nest cavities
  • Parasitic botflies laying eggs on young macaws, their larvae burrowing under the skin. Very young chicks (~5 days) can die from botfly infestation
  • Brood reduction, a common result of the normal process of hatching in parrots, which results in the loss of the youngest chick or chicks in a clutch
Conservation actions:
Since 2002, the focus of WPT's fieldwork has been to better understand the species’ ecology and to develop strategies to aid its long-term survival. The project is a complex conservation programme: it combines population surveys and searches for additional Blue-throated Macaw sites with components of habitat investigation, direct protection of wild nests and outreach with local and national groups.

Current and future efforts include:

  • Managing wild populations by monitoring breeding pairs, protecting nests and nestlings
  • Aiding breeding by installing artificial nest boxes
  • Conducting habitat surveys to determine use by birds
  • Determining wild bird movements using telemetry and satellite tracking
  • Conducting genetic analyses of captive and wild populations
  • Identifying and eliminating ongoing threats affecting the wild populations
  • Releasing captive raised birds into areas where extinction has occurred
  • Building a captive breeding program for the birds in Bolivia
  • Investigating habitat management and restoration techniques
  • Discouraging use of parrot feathers for traditional ceremonies
To learn more about our efforts to save this species: Bolivian partners:
Fundación Noel Kempff Mercado, el Centro de Investigación en Biodiversidad y Medioambiente (CIBIOMA), la Facultad de Agronomía, Veterinaria, Zootecnia y Turismo de la Universidad Autónoma del Beni, el Gobierno Departamental del Beni, el Comité Interinstitucional para la conservación de la Paraba Barba azul, el Centro Ecoturístico el Tábano Campestre, el Gobierno Municipal Autónomo de Loreto, Trinidad y Santa Rosa del Yacuma y las Direcciones del Área Protegida Municipal Pampas del Yacuma y Área Natural de Manejo Integrado Iténez.

International partners:
Natural Encounters Conservation Fund, Paradise Park, Zoological Society of London, CONICET, Centro de Biodiversidad y Genética de la Universidad Mayor de San Simón, African Lion Safari, Instituto Multidiscipinario Sobre Ecosistemas y Desarrollo Sustentable, Estación Biológica de Doñana (CSIC), Keith Ewart Charitable Trust, The Rufford Small Grants Foundation, Idea Wild, The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, HUGO BOSS-BOSS Orange, Macaw Landing Foundation, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Wildlife Conservation Society, IAATE, Minnesota Zoo, Kilverstone Trust, Point Defiance Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, Parrot Society of LA, and Zoomarine.

 

Blue-throated Macaw

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