After More than 20 Years, the Rarest Macaws in the World Are Returning to the Wild

You may remember the Spix’s macaw from the animated movie Rio.

The Spix’s macaw is a small, adorable parrot with deep blue feathers and a black curved beak that’s endemic to Brazil.

Photo: YouTube/Euronews

There had been challenges for the couple of endangered Spix’s macaws in the movie, but the actual history of these birds is tinged with tragedy.

In 2000, the Spix’s macaw was declared extinct in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their populateion was decimated by poaching, illegal trade, and habitat loss. The Spix’s macaws had a limited range which made their species rare. They lived along the banks of the São Francisco river, in a unique tropical dry forest that is called “caatinga.”

Photo: YouTube/Euronews

With only 55 Spix’s macaws left in cages around the world, the situation prompted conservationists, scientists, veterinarians, and local communities to save the birds through a comprehensive breeding and reintroduction program.

Martin Guth, a German businessman and parrot collector, founded the non-profit organization Association for the Conservation of Threatened Parrots (ACTP), which collaborated with the Pairi Daiza Foundation and the government of Brazil for the project.

Photo: YouTube/Euronews

And yes, after twenty years of diligent efforts, 8 adult captive-bred Spix’s macaws were released back into their former home in the wild last June, and another 12 are being made ready for release by the end of the year.

And yet, it is not the end of the story of this massive undertaking to reintroduce birds that have been extinct in the wild for more than two decades. Everyone involved in this endeavor knows they still have a long way to go, but it’s a journey that is worth every step.

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