PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY LORO PARQUE FUNDACIÓN: 23 December 2002

Editor's note and background information: 

The following press release, was released by the Loro Parque Fundación (the non-profit branch of the Loro Parque Bird Park in Tenerife, Spain) during the Vth International Parrot Convention, hosted by Loro Parque. 

"Rarest bird in the world goes home" sounds absolutely wonderful... but what is it that this press release is missing? What is the history of this female Spix's? Although the press release implies that this bird was given back since the Fundación "several years ago returned ownership of all Spix's macaws in its possession to the Brazilian Government". However that is not quite the case. Although Loro Parque did give back ownership of the two birds it held to Brazil, this was not one of them. 

This female was never "given back" to Brazil by Loro Parque, as it has always been a bird that belonged to Brazil. For years it was held at the São Paulo Zoo, and after the 1994 Spix's Macaw Population Workshop meeting, it was decided to pair this female with a male at Loro Parque (as their female had died). At the same time a younger male also in the São Paulo Zoo was to be paired with a younger female in Loro Parque. But this meant that Brazil would have to sent two of its Spix's Macaws outside the country - a very politically unpopular situation. So, in the spirit of collaboration in the program, Antonio de Dios, owner of Birds International, Inc., the most successful Spix's macaw breeder, donated two of his young male Spix's to the São Paulo Zoo to offset their loss of two Spix's macaws that would be sent to Loro Parque for pairing. Because of this donation, Loro Parque was able to receive the two birds from Brazil for breeding. The São Paulo Zoo would still hold two Spix's Macaws that would be paired later after they were able to build better facilities, and the potential breeding female and male would be with appropriate mates. 

Unfortunately, the birds transferred to Loro Parque in July of 1995 have not bred. These are the most genetically important birds to the small population. The male that had been paired with this female died in December of 2000. It was critical that she be paired as soon as possible. This is the oldest female in captivity (wild caught) and at that time she was estimated to be at least 24 years of age (although still egg-laying). She had never bred, and therefore not yet contributed genetically to the population. This made her one of the most valuable birds for the breeding program. 

At the extraordinary Committee meeting held in Brasilia, Brazil in February of 2001- the studbook keeper, Natasha Schischakin, recommended that she be paired with a single male in Recife, Brazil, that had lost its mate (a captive-bred female also donated to Brazil by Antonio de Dios for breeding, resulting in the successful rearing of two chicks) just prior to that meeting. Although this transfer was initially met with opposition from Loro Parque owner Wolfgang Kiessling, it was in the final recommendation turned that she turned in to IBAMA in April 2001 and agreed to by IBAMA in November of 2001 (7 months later). As the breeding season in Brazil is September - January, this meant another season was lost.  As the previous chicks in the Recife facility had hatched on October 10th, it was critical to get this female there as soon as possible to allow her to bond with the new male and adapt to the new climate in time for the next breeding season (2002).  

But when was this older bird finally moved to Brazil? As the press release commemorating the "repatriation" of this bird states -- September 24, 2002.  In the announcements and press surrounding this "event" at the Vth International Parrot Convention (September 18-21, 2002), no mention was made of the fact that she never reproduced at that facility, that she had been a bird originally sent from Brazil for breeding purposes or that her move had been recommended almost two years earlier!  Worse yet, moving her in September, did not take into account the species' reproductive season and acclimatization needs. (The previous female was already incubating her eggs by September 24th of 2000!) Instead it appears that her move was planned to coincide with the convention, not the species biological requirements for breeding. 

Now that she has finally been moved, we must all hope that she will reproduce. She is in very capable hands with Mauricio dos Santos, the Brazilian private  aviculturist who was successful in breeding the first Spix's macaw in Brazil in nearly 30 years in 2000 with the production of two parent-reared chicks (from a male taken from the wild as a chick and a hand-reared captive bred female from Birds International, Inc. in the Philippines). We wish him the best with this most important and valuable female. Her genes are critical to the future of the Spix's macaw survival and too many years have been lost since she was first transferred to the Loro Parque facility in Tenerife, Spain in 1995. With luck, this might be a delayed breeding season and we do not have to wait another year to see if this pairing was successful. 

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"Rarest bird in world goes home". 

A press release issued by Loro Parque Fundación on 24th September 2002

Today a female Spix's macaw Cyanopsitta spixii, the rarest bird in the world, will be repatriated from Spain to its native country Brazil. This long-tailed, all blue parrot is extinct in the wild state, but there are now more than 60 Spix´s macaws in a captive breeding programme for the recovery and eventual restoration of the species to its natural habitat.

The recovery effort is coordinated by the Brazilian Government Institute for Environment and Natural Renewable Resources, IBAMA, and the priceless female macaw will be accompanied on its journey to Brazil by Dr Iolita Bampi, General Coordinator of Fauna of IBAMA. As part of the captive breeding and recovery programme, this bird has been maintained on behalf of the Brazilian Government by the Loro Parque Fundación within its breeding centre in Tenerife, Spain. The Fundación, an international conservation NGO, has been the principal funding agency for the recovery effort to date, and several years ago returned ownership of all Spix´s macaws in its possession to the Brazilian Government. On arrival in Brazil, this female will be paired with a carefully selected mate to improve the breeding programme. In parallel with the strengthening of the captive population, the crucial work of protection and restoration of the specialised habitat of this species will continue in the north-east of Brazil. Remarking on the importance of today´s transfer, Dr Bampi said " as part of the Brazilian Government´s strong commitment to biodiversity conservation, we continue our efforts to save the Spix´s macaw in partnership with the Loro Parque Fundación, and the repatriation of this bird is practical evidence of effective collaboration".

A further important development related to the survival of the Spix´s macaw occurred during the 5th International Parrot Convention hosted by the Loro Parque Fundación in Tenerife on 18 to 21 September 2002. In a landmark vote of the 850 delegates to the Convention, by a 6:1 majority they voted for the urgent return of ownership to the Brazilian Government of the Spix´s macaws currently in the possession of the few other private holders of this species in captivity. The decisive outcome of this vote was based on the strong belief that recovery of this rarest of all birds will best occur with Brazilian Government ownership and coordination of the programme. All holders would continue to maintain and breed the macaws in their own breeding centres on behalf of the Brazilian Government. The importance of this vote is underlined by the fact that it represents the view of the broadest possible range of interests in parrot aviculture, science and conservation. Following the vote, Mr Wolfgang Kiessling, President of the Fundación remarked " the Loro Parque Fundación has a deep commitment to the survival of the Spix´s macaw, an emblem for the rest of nature, and the result of this vote is clear evidence that the majority of aviculturists and conservationists believe this species will be best restored to nature with all birds in the ownership of the Brazilian Government".