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Blue-throated Macaw Project

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:
The Blue-throated Macaw is a Bolivian species that has become increasingly endangered in recent times even though, according to locals, the wild population prior to the 1980s was thought to number 500-1000 individuals. By the end of the decade the birds had all but disappeared. In 1992 they were rediscovered, and 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.

Although most trapping for the pet trade ended over a decade ago, the species remains in a precarious state as only 10-15 breeding pairs are known to exist in the wild. These pairs are scattered across a landscape covering 50,000 sq km. The successful recruitment of new breeding pairs into the population appears to be rare and may be a chief factor limiting the recovery of the species.

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 botfly infestation in chicks
  • 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 2001, the World Parrot Trust has worked with a growing number of partners on the conservation of the Blue-throated Macaw. Our work has focused mainly on protecting and maximizing the reproductive output of the remaining wild breeding pairs, as well as understanding the species’ ecology. This in-country work has been conducted concurrently with our building a network of partners managing captive birds who are breeding offspring for conservation purposes primarily in the UK, Canada, and the USA.

Current and future efforts include:

Managing wild populations by:
  • Repairing natural nesting cavities
  • Creating suitable cavities in living palms
  • Placing artificial cavities in established nesting areas
  • Management of nesting trees to minimize predation risk
Hands on nest management:
  • Active protection from avian and mammalian predators
  • Frequent monitoring of chick growth, development, and diseases
  • Supplementary feeding of chicks, as necessary
  • Medicating and other veterinary support for chicks, as necessary
Identifying and eliminating ongoing threats such as:
  • Loss of nest sites to logging and competition
  • Predation of eggs, chicks, adults
  • Natural loss of rapidly degrading, dead palms
Ecological and conservation related studies including:
  • Habitat use
  • Movements using telemetry and satellite
  • Foraging, social behaviour
  • Fledging success
  • Breeding pair monitoring using photo-ID
  • Conducting gene studies of captive and wild populations
  • Investigating habitat management and restoration techniques
Captive breeding and release efforts:
  • Releasing captive raised birds into areas where local extinction has occurred
  • Developing a captive breeding program for the birds in Bolivia
  • Working with out-of-country partners to return birds to Bolivia for breeding and/or release
To learn more about our efforts to save this species: Bolivian partners:
Dirección General de Biodiversidad y Áreas Protegidas; Centro de Investigación en Biodiversidad y Medioambiente (CIBIOMA); Instituto de Investigación de la Facultad de Ciencias Pecuarias (IIFCP); Facultades de Ingeniería Agronómica, Veterinaria y Zootecnia de la Universidad Autónoma del Beni José Ballivián; Secretaría de Medio Ambiente del Gobierno Departamental del Beni; Comité Interinstitucional para la conservación de la Paraba Barba Azul; Centro Ecoturístico el Tábano Campestre; Honorable Alcaldía Municipal de la Ciudad de Trinidad; Honorable Alcaldía Municipal del Municipio de Loreto; Honorable Alcaldía Municipal de Santa Rosa del Yacuma; Centro de Biodiversidad y Genética de la Universidad Mayor de San Simón, Dirección del Área Protegida Municipal Pampas del Yacuma; Dirección del Área Protegida PD ANMI Iténez; Federación de Ganaderos del Departamento del Beni (FEGABENI).

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, International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE), Minnesota Zoo, Kilverstone Trust, Point Defiance Zoo, San Francisco Zoo, Parrot Society of LA, Zoomarine, Shared Earth Foundation, Keefe Family Foundation, Naples Zoo, Paignton Zoo and Environmental Park, and a number of private individuals.

 

Blue-throated Macaw

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Blue-throated Macaw Project