Saturday 2 August 2008

Spix's Macaw by Tony Juniper

This is the story of the rarest bird in the world and the attempts to save it from extinction. It reads on one level as an exciting detective story with real twists and turns to grip the reader. On another level it is an incredibly sobering look at how we treat the natural world. The plans to build up a captive breeding programme for the bird have been beset by unco-operative private breeders, misfortune and slothful administration. The last wild Spix's macaw died after 19 years alone in its natural habitat, with a brief reunion with its mate who was re-released after being rescued from an illegal breeder. She however later died after colliding with electricity cables and the pair were unable to breed. Local communities in the area had become very actively supportive of conservation efforts for the macaws and very proud of the birds. There is still hope that captive bred birds will ultimately be able to be re-released but the situation doesn't look too hopeful. (Readers who really care about nature and birds will need a handkerchief from about half way through this book).

Thankfully there is some hope here, in the form of stories of other species rescued from the brink of extinction such as three birds from Mauritius - the pink pigeon, the Mauritius kestrel and the Echo parakeet, all of which now have re-established relatively healthy wild populations and have stimulated protection of their habitat alongside real community involvement. This story has also been replicated for a number of parrots and related species in the Carribean - can it work for the Spix's macaw? Only time will tell.

Spix's Macaw by Tony Juniper published 2002 by Fourth Estate

A presentation by Juniper on the current (2002) state of Spix's Macaw can be read here

See photos of Spix's macaw here. 

Edited March 2020 to add: 52 Spix's macaws (extinct in the wild) repatriated to Brazil, to be released next year, once acclimatised.See this article (in Portuguese) for more information and this article (In English!) on the BBC website.


Susan Richardson said...

Thanks for this review.I have been doing quite a lot of reading on extinction issues recently - and this is a book I must definitely get hold of.

polona said...

this is probably another book i will likely never get hold of unless i buy it from somewhere on the web... but it sounds like fascinating read...