News: A Milestone for Macaws
For immediate release: Friday, 6 July 2012
Washington, DC — Emily Bizwell Weller, in the Branch of Foreign Species for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, today distributed an e-mail, announcing:
“I am writing to inform you that on July 6, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published in the Federal Register a 12-month finding on a petition and proposed rule to list the hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This proposal, if made final, would extend the Act’s protection to this species.”
Weller states that this important proposed rule “is in response to a petition received from Friends of Animals, as represented by the Environmental Law Clinic, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, on January 31, 2008, requesting that we list 14 parrot species under the Act.” *
Thus, in a step towards curtailing the harmful global trade in birds, all members of three macaw species, as well as a subspecies and a distinct population segment (DPS) of scarlet macaw, advanced towards vital protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed to list the hyacinth macaw, the military macaw, the great green macaw, the northern subspecies of scarlet macaw (Ara macao cyanoptera), and the northern DPS of the southern subspecies of scarlet macaw (A. m. macao) as “endangered” due to a variety of threats.
All four species of macaw were listed under CITES Appendix I because the pet trade threatened them with extinction. Yet they are still threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, as well as continued illegal trade and hunting.
“Endangered Species Act protection is key for foreign species taken from their homes for the pet trade,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians.
“Demand for these attractive, intelligent, and vocal birds in countries including the U.S. has driven extensive poaching in their home ranges. ESA protection is a further deterrent to trade and supports conservation efforts in these birds’ home countries.”Friends of Animals and WildEarth Guardians, with the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic, reached a settlement in a lawsuit with the FWS in July 2010, in which the FWS agreed to provide overdue 12-month listing decisions for twelve parrot species petitioned by Friends of Animals. This finding is the last of those required under the 2010 settlement.
“Every bird cooped up in someone’s house is deprived of a free life with other members of their natural communities,” said Lee Hall, Legal Vice President for Friends of Animals, which filed the initial petition to list these communities of birds. “So we ask advocates in the United States and worldwide to complement our work with awareness campaigns to understand birds - no matter where they were born — as inappropriate pets.”
Hyacinth macaws are the largest birds in the parrot family, measuring around 3 feet in length. Their plumage is a dramatic cobalt blue and black, with yellow accents on the face. The species remains only in three areas, almost entirely within Brazil: Eastern Amazonia in Pará, Brazil; the Gerais region of northeastern Brazil; and the Pantanal of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil and marginally in Bolivia and Paraguay.
Hyacinth macaws nest in tree or cliff cavities. Individuals will take turns serving as a lookout for the group. Their habitat, in particular the large tree cavities they need for nesting, is threatened by agriculture and cattle ranching. In the 1970s and 80s, their population was devastated by illegal capture for the national and international pet trade — a single macaw could earn a bird catcher over $12,000 USD.
Great green macaws and military macaws have dark lime-green feathers mixed with blue flight feathers. Their lower backs are blue, with red and blue tails and red foreheads. The military macaws are slightly smaller and darker, and are found in wet mountain forests of the Andes from northern Mexico southward into Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and the southern tip of Argentina. There are likely only 1,000 to a few thousand individuals remaining, scattered across their remaining habitat in small, isolated populations of less than 100 birds. They nest colonially in tree cavities and cliffs, and, like most parrots, mate for life.
Great green macaws’ humid tropical forests, now severely fragmented, comprise five main areas: the border of Honduras and Nicaragua, the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, the Darién region of Panama and Colombia, and two very small pockets in Ecuador. The total population is likely between 1,000 and 3,000 individuals. Their habitat of the almendro tree has declined significantly. Great green macaws are still trafficked for the pet trade in Honduras and Nicaragua.
Scarlet macaws, true to their name, are predominantly scarlet red, with bands of red, yellow, blue, and green on the upper side of their wings and blue tail-feathers. Their range extends from Mexico southward to central Bolivia and Brazil. They require large nest cavities, generally in larger, older trees, and the scarcity of these nest sites due to deforestation and forest degradation limits the ability of these large birds to raise families. They are threatened most severely by illegal capture for the domestic pet trade.
The FWS contends that scarlet macaws are secure within the portion of their range in the Amazon, but found that poaching is a substantial threat to the subspecies A. m. cyanoptera throughout its range in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and to the subspecies A. m. macao in Costa Rica and Panama.
- The e-mail goes on to say comments will be accepted until September 4, 2012; see http://www.fws.gov/policy/library/2012/2012-16461.pdf
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