BRAZIL

Land Purchase for Spix’s Macaw

Project Cost: $1,135,053

Funding Raised: $936,356

$187 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)

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The brilliantly blue Critically Endangered Spix’s Macaw is one of the world’s rarest birds. Heavy degradation from goat grazing of the Spix’s Macaws preferred habitat in the arid caatinga of northeastern Brazil and intense poaching pressure for the pet trade led to the species becoming extinct in the wild in 2000.

Luckily, a growing population of this bird lives in captivity and a sophisticated captive breeding and release program is almost ready to begin, an international effort by the Spix’s Macaw Association – ACTP (Germany), Pairi Daiza (Belgium), Parrots International (US), Al Wabra (Qatar), and Jurong Bird Park (Singapore). But, for this reintroduction to succeed, the macaws need a new protected area for feeding and nesting within the last known suitable habitat. While two patches of habitat for the species have been secured, additional key habitat needs protection to give the species a real chance at long-term survival in the wild.

Rainforest Trust and local partner Instituto Arara Azul seek $1,135,053 to purchase up to 6,082 acres of critical gallery forest habitat at the proposed reintroduction site to ensure the macaws have a secure reserve for feeding and nesting once released.

Photo: Two Critically Endangered Spix’s Macaws. Photo by DPA Picture-Alliance.

Fast Facts

Location:
Curaçá, Brazil

Size:
6,082 acres

Key Species:
Spix’s Macaw (CR), White-browed Guan (VU), Brazilian Three-banded Armadillo (VU), Northern Tiger Cat (VU)

Habitat:
Caatinga gallery forest

Threats:
Overgrazing, erosion, commercial mining, poaching

Action:
Purchase land for the release of Spix’s Macaws

Local Partner:
Instituto Arara Azul

Financial Need:
$1,135,053

Price per Acre:
$187

Total Carbon Storage (Mt CO2):
49,412

Biodiversity

The proposed land purchase will protect an intact remnant of caatinga desert scrub home to many animal and plant species found nowhere else in the world.

Mature caraibeira (Tabebuia aurea) gallery woodland runs along Melancia Creek, surrounded by desert scrub. The caraibeira trees provide critical habitat to Spix’s Macaws for both feeding and nesting, and the macaws roost in tall Pilosocereus cacti in the surrounding scrub. Other birds in the region include the colorful Blue-winged Macaw and the Vulnerable turkey-like White-browed Guan. Twenty-nine species of mammals from 16 families live in the area, including two Vulnerable species, the Northern Tiger Cat and the Brazilian Three-banded Armadillo. At least 18 species of amphibians occur in the area (about one-third of the species known for the entire caatinga region), including two species of frogs that are likely new to science.  

Photo: The Vulnerable White-browed Guan. Photo by Cristine Prates.
 

Challenges

Only 1 percent of the endemic-rich caatinga desert scrub is protected, and goat grazing has heavily impacted most of the unprotected region.

Overgrazing inhibits vegetation growth and regeneration in this arid region, destroying the fragile riparian woodland habitat of the Spix’s Macaw. Erosion of the gallery woodland changes the landscape’s hydrology so creek water rushes downstream without percolating into groundwater. This robs the gallery woodland ecosystem of its sustaining groundwater, damaging the gallery forest riparian ecosystem critical to the Spix’s Macaw and numerous other threatened species.  

Photo: Before and after evidence of goat damage. Photo by M. Stafford.
 

Communities

An entire generation of the local community has been raised with awareness of the Spix’s Macaw...

The area is quite arid so most people depend on goat herding. The project is fortunate that community education, community outreach and capacity building have been ongoing for the last 25 years to anticipate the Spix’s Macaw’s reintroduction. For example, a consortium of organizations working to conserve the macaw funded a “Spix’s Macaw School.” An entire generation of the local community has been raised with awareness of the Spix’s Macaw, and the closest city, Curaçá, adopted the species as their mascot.  

Photo: Spix's Macaw School children. Photo by of M.Stafford.
 

Solutions

For 25 years, a group of conservation organizations and the Brazilian government have been collaborating to save the Spix’s Macaw from extinction.

There have been difficulties, such as low breeding success historically, but the reintroduction program is now ready to launch as soon as enough land is protected to ensure a successful reintroduction. So far, only a small proportion of caatinga gallery forest has been purchased and protected, while the funds for the reintroduction facility have been secured. Once the land is purchased, the Brazilian government is expected to declare a new wildlife refuge along the river corridor to permanently protect additional riparian habitat. Rainforest Trust and our local partner seek $1,135,053 to purchase up to 6,082 acres to protect the most important remaining habitat for Spix’s Macaws. The reintroduction facility will release approximately 16 macaws in the area annually, and the birds will be radio-tagged, micro-chipped and monitored closely. (Photo: Field Researchers surveying habitat damage. Photo by M. Stafford.)