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Home » 2009 - Issue 2, Conservation, In the Wild, Issue

The Macaw Reintroduction Project - Foz Iguacu

By By Mathias Dislich, DVM, staff veterinarian for the Foz Tropicana Bird Park


The Iguacu Falls National Park attracts a large number of visitors every year, wishing to see the incredible waterfalls and to visit the last remaining rainforest in Southern Brazil.

Located next to the National Park is Foz Tropicana Bird Park. This small, yet charming, zoo was founded in 1994 by Dennis and Anna Croukamp. Since then it has made continuous efforts in ex-situ conservation by breeding, successfully, endangered Brazilian birds such as Vinaceous Amazons, Red Tailed Amazons, Golden Conures and Hyacinth Macaws (to name just a few). It also supports some in situ conservation projects such as the Blue Fronted Amazon Project in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Now the Bird Park wishes to go a step further and become directly involved in in situ conservation.  How are we going to do this?  By reintroducing Green-winged and Blue-and-Yellow Macaws in their southern range of distribution, where they seem to be locally extinct.

During the last decades, the Western border of Paraná State faced rapid development, with the creation of considerable areas of farmland and the construction of one of the world’s biggest hydroelectric plants.  This resulted in the loss of a huge area of subtropical rainforest. The existing macaw population couldn’t cope and started to decline as a result of the rapid change in their natural habitat.

In the seventies and early eighties, macaws could still be seen in the region of the Iguacu Falls National Park, but for more than 10 years now, no wild macaw has been sighted.

The goal of the reintroduction project is to soft-release groups of macaws in the region of Foz do Iguacu, after a rigorous pre-release preparation and a careful post-release monitoring, aiming for the slow but consistent establishment of a new self-sustained population, with the valuable help of an involved local community.

Although in the recent past many birds might have been captured and killed by local people, the same group will now benefit from the value that big parrots add to  ecotourism and related merchandise. In this way, through the involvement of the community with the conservation issue, the National Park may also be protected by the decrease of hunting and Palm Heart extraction pressure.

At the present moment, studies are being performed to establish the genetic profile of the Brazilian population of both species of macaws throughout their range. These studies will tell us which macaws we might take to the rehabilitation center, where suitable birds will be triaged and trained for release.

In order to create a more favorable environment for the released macaws, artificial nests will be provided to decrease competition and to facilitate post-reintroduction monitoring.  Prototypes of these nests have been successfully tested ex situ and now will be evaluated in the forest environment.

Although releases will take place only in the next few years, it´s time to prepare the local communities for this. By the end of this year an environmental education program will be developed, and by 2010 the educators will start the important mission of getting people involved.  Pioneers will be interviewed to provide more historical data about the natural history of the birds in that region, at the same time helping us to understand better the bird/human relationship and the causes of local extinction.

As part of this project, sanitary studies of the wild bird populations, specially parrots, will be carried out, to identify the pathogens that are present in the environment and to avoid the introduction of alien diseases by released birds in the reintroduction site.

We firmly believe that this project will have an extremely positive impact on local conservation, and at the same time develop and test methodologies and provide valuable data for use on future reintroduction projects of critically endangered birds, especially parrots.

Now, it´s time to work….

Dr Mathias Dislich DVM graduated in veterinary medicine at São Paulo University in 2000. Since then he has been working at Foz Tropicana Birdpark in Foz do Iguacu as a member of the working group of the reintroduction Project, ” Iguacu Macaws “.

Mathias recently delivered a lecture at the Parrots International Symposium in Las Vegas, entitled : Development of a Macaw Reintroduction Project : a case study, which introduced the ” Iguacu Macaws”  project, the aim of which is to reintroduce and establish a viable population of Green-winged and Blue-and-Yellow Macaws in their Southern range of distribution: the Iguacu Falls area in the Southwest of Brazil.

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