Brazil wants to bring little blue macaws from Qatar
The animals belong to a Qatari organization whose founder died in 2014. Brazilians intend to increase the number of birds born in captivity before returning the species to the wild.
São Paulo – Brazil is looking to bring in little blue macaws held in captivity in Qatar in order to breed them in larger numbers and then try and return them to the wild. To this end, Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), a biodiversity conservation institute, has called upon the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations to help make a plea to the Arab country. The birds in Qatar are under care of the Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, which tends to endangered animals and is located outside Doha, the federal capital. The little blue macaw’s natural habitat is the caatinga, a biome that only exists in Brazil.
The Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation used to be managed by former Qatari minister of Culture Saoud Bin Mohammed Bin Al Thani, who passed away last year at age 48. Out of fear that the animals might be distributed to Thani’s inheritors, ICMBio got in touch with the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. Thani was one of Qatar’s foremost art buffs and also strove to preserve endangered fauna and flora. The organization’s collection includes gazelles, antelopes and rare plants.
Al Wabra owns the majority of captive little blue macaws in the world (more than 70), whose scientific name is Cyanopsitta spixii. Another 10 animals live in Germany, and 12 in Brazil. According to ICMBio’s general coordinator of handling for the preservation of species, Ugo Vercillo, the goal is to release the little blue macaw into its natural habitat in 2021. The goal is part of Brazil’s National Action Plan for the Preservation of the Little Blue Macaw.
This requires that animals be born in larger numbers each year. The current average is 10 individuals and the target is 20 to 25. Another requirement is for the specimens to have as little contact with man as possible.
“Living with humans is unnatural to them. We don’t want the bird to feed from the hands of men. If they are to be returned to nature, then they must fear human beings and know that the hawk is their predator,” he says. If an animal is born in Brazil, it will not interact with man as much as if it’s born elsewhere and then caged, flown into the country in a plane and then taken to its habitat – the city of Curaçá, in northern Bahia.
On good terms
Vercillo has called on the Brazilian Foreign Ministry to contact Qatar about bringing the animals to Brazil. Notwithstanding this fact, the ICMBio and Al Wabra researchers are on good terms. The Qatari institute has even purchased a farm in Curaçá in order to reintroduce the animals into the wild.
The handling of these birds poses further challenges. Organizations that own threatened or extinct animals are wary of passing them on to others. “In our request via the Foreign Ministry we have made it clear that we deeply regret the passing of sheikh Al Thani, and are aware of the fact that he strove to take care of extremely rare animals and plants. We want to work to keep alive his dream of returning these animals to nature,” Vercillo says.
The little blue macaw is one of four known macaw species that are completely blue. Specimens from two of the other three species, all of which are larger than the little blue macaw, are being reintroduced into nature. One said species lives in the Juazeiro do Norte area, in Brazil’s Ceará state, and the other one is endemic to the Pantanal. The third species, Anodorhynchus glaucus, lived between the state of Paraná and Paraguay, and became extinct in 1892 as a result of the Paraguayan War.
The little blue macaw can measure up to 57 centimetres from head to tail. It is smaller than its cousins and can live longer than 30 years. Vercillo estimates that the animals born over the past few years and the ones that will be born in years to come will be the generation that will birth those who will live freely.
This will only come to pass in case more animals are bred. Besides trying to get more little blue macaws into Brazil to mate naturally, researchers are using artificial insemination and striving to enhance male fertility. Little blue macaws are monogamous, and therefore give birth in small numbers. Each couple has three baby birds a year, on average. According to Vercillo, there are three females awaiting mates in Brazil. Illegal trafficking was the main reason for the animal’s becoming extinct in nature. Other causes include the destruction of its natural habitat.
*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum