Almost a fourth of the world’s parrots (~80 species) are endangered. Why is this? A number of reasons- the main one is loss of habitat. This problem is the worst in the Caribbean and Central/South America- one in three of all the species there are endangered.
Rainforests are disappearing at a rapid rate destroying birds’ homes and food supply, just so that they can be turned into palm or banana plantations, or farmland to raise cattle for producing hamburgers. Or they could be hunted for food or caught as pets.
Parrots on islands are even more vulnerable to humans and non-native animals that they introduce, since most have small populations and slow breeding rates. The Kakapo (The world’s largest parrot) is a ground bird, and nearly went extinct because of new ground predators that humans introduced. The whole population (50 birds!) was moved to some tiny, uninhabited islands because of conservationists. In August, 2018 the adult population of Kakapo was up to 148.
The Cagebird Trade
Immense trade in parrots is a big threat. In the past 30 years, the cagebird trade has grown due to faster, cheaper air transport. Every year, licensed dealers export thousand of parrots and many die of disease, unsuitable food, or when they are captured. Despite laws for protecting rare species, many are still smuggled and traded in the Black Market. A dealer could buy an endangered bird at a low price from a trapper in Brazil, and then sell it for thousands of times more somewhere else.
A Win for Conservationists
This story begins with the Spix’s Macaw which used to live in woodlands adjoining the Sao Fransisco river. But the macaws’ special habitat almost disappear because of cattle
ranching in the 18th century. Spix’s Macaw depends on seeds and fruit from just four kinds of trees. If these trees are cut down, the macaw quickly suffers.
In the 1970’s the rarity of Spix’s macaw led to a demand for birds exported illegally for collecters. This meant a decline in what was already a small population.
After the only remaining wild bird escaped capture and was found by an expedition in 1990, a field program started in 1991. It included a detailed study of the wild bird and a reintroduction plan linked to captive breeding. There were fewer than 40 in captivity and all of the known birds in the program were in private breeding facilities. In 1995, the total number increased by seven chicks hatching. In March, 1995, a captive-bred female macaw was released into the wild. The one wild bird in the wild proved to be a male, and although he was paired up with a Blue-winged macaw, the introduced female has spent time with him.
What you can do to help!
Organizations are making huge efforts to save species through research, captive breeding, and education. Share this problem with others so they can do the same. Cracking down on illegal trade and having stricter limits for imported parrots is essential.Persuading governments and private companies to reduce habitat destruction is also a vital task. But total bans might not be a good idea as it could threaten the survival of scarce parrots by encouraging dealers to make greater profits by illegal trading. So, here is the list:
•Writing to the government or companies asking them to help reduce habitat loss
•Public Awareness and Education- Flyers, Posters, Blogs, Word of mouth…
•Don’t buy illegal parrots
•Write to companies asking them to stop using meat that would affect a rainforest
•Do not use brands that use a product that was produced from a plantation on the rainforest*
*The Orangutan Gang has information on this.