By Shaun Hurrell, 24 Jun 2016
It was Grandpa Pinpin’s dream: to see his favourite bird, Spix’s Macaw, fly again over the skies of Curaçá, a small town of about 30,000 in the dry Caatinga area of Bahia, Brazil, where goat herding is the main activity. Pinpin Oliveira passed away last year, aged 94, his wish unfulfilled. But the baton was passed to his 16 year old grand-daughter, Damilys, who not only saw the macaw, not seen in the wild since 2000, but also managed to film it with her mobile phone.
Spix’s Macaw Cyanopsitta spixii is Critically Endangered and possibly extinct in the wild, primarily as a result of trapping for trade plus habitat loss. Does this vibrant blue bird look familiar? The species also became the star of the animated film ‘Rio’, as main characters ‘Blu’ and ‘Jewel’. 130 Spix’s Macaws remain as part of a captive breeding programme.
The bird was first sighted on 18th June by local farmer Nauto Sergio de Oliveira. On the following day, his neighbour Lourdes Oliveira and daughter Damilys woke up before dawn to look for the macaw in Barra Grande creek’s riparian forest. At 6:20 AM they were able to not only see the bird, but record a video on Damilys’ mobile phone.
With the video Lourdes contacted the biologists from the Society for the Conservation of Birds in Brazil (SAVE Brasil, BirdLife Partner), one of the organisations that make up Projeto Ararinha na Natureza (Spix’s Macaw in the Wild Project) which aims to bring the bird back from extinction. The video and the distinctive vocal calls killed all doubts: it was indeed a Spix’s Macaw. Pedro Develey, SAVE Brasil’s Director, immediately told other project members and organised an emergency trip to Curaçá to locate the bird.
“The local people were euphoric,” said Develey.
“They set up a WhatsApp group to coordinate and maximise the search for the bird, and ensured no potential dealers could enter the area.”