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After Two Decades of “Extinction,” the Spix Macaw Returns to the Wild in Brazil

Spix Macaw

The Spix Macaw is a charming blue bird whose role as an animated character in the 2011 animated film, Rio, only demonstrates the natural cuteness and charisma of these birds. That film’s star, a Spix Macaw named “Blu” is abducted by a smuggling ring and raised in captivity before being released into the wild to facilitate the revival of his species. Funnily enough, eleven years after the release of this film, several Spix Macaws have stepped into Blu’s shoes and been re-released in Brazil.

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The Extinction of a Captive Species

About twenty years ago, the last known Spix Macaw disappeared from the wild, leaving the future of this brilliant blue bird in the hands of just a few collectors with a scattered population of just a few dozen captive macaws. In essence, the Spix Macaw was extinct. While individual macaws still lived, the species could not be expected to have a future in the wild and was most likely going to slowly dwindle in captivity until the last captive bird died.

Shockingly, the future of the Spix Macaw seems brighter now, in 2022, than it has for decades. On July eleventh, eight Cyanopsitta spixii, or Spix Macaws, were released into Brazil’s jungles in the hopes of establishing a breeding population in the wild for the first time in many years.

Blu is Back

From the small population of captive birds which survived the extinction of their wild brethren, a hearty population of captive Spix Macaws have been cultivated, all in preparation for this delicate operation. According to researchers, the Spix Macaws which have been released are all alive as of July twenty-eighth, and are sticking together and behaving as expected. The loss of even one macaw for such a small population could be potentially devastating, so their current status offers bird-lovers and conservationists quite a bit of hope.

The land on which the macaws have been released is a protected wildlife reserve, however they still face a substantial adjustment from captive living to survival in the wild. If all goes according to the plan, a further twelve Spix Macaws are scheduled to join the small wild flock in December. For the time being, all of the macaws are being tracked and monitored via GPS trackers.

A Tiny Flock Facing Big Challenges

Although the reintroduction of the Spix Macaw seems to be going successfully thus far, these brilliant blue birds will face a host of new and old challenges going forward if they are to reclaim their former place in Brazil’s ecosystems.

Small populations are prone to diseases due to a lack of genetic diversity which often leads to rampant inbreeding. Fortunately, conservation efforts have produced success stories under such conditions in the past. The Peregrine Falcon in the United States was down to zero breeding pairs and only a handful of individuals due to the DDT crisis in the1960s and 70s. These falcons are thriving in much of the US today.

If the Spix Macaw can overcome its population issue, then it still must contend with the poaching which drove this species to extinction in the first place. With the help of conservationists, it is hoped that humanity can rectify our mistakes and bring back a bird which we nearly eliminated.

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