Endangered macaw continues to increase in Brazil

Lear's Macaw feeding on its favoured Licurí fruits. Photo: Loro Parque Fundación.
Lear's Macaw feeding on its favoured Licurí fruits. Photo: Loro Parque Fundación.
Despite a severe drought, the Critically Endangered Lear's Macaw population continues to grow due to careful conservation measures.

Lear 's Macaw is native to the semi-arid north-east of Bahia, Brazil and was assessed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2008, when it was estimated to have a world population numbering less than 250 birds.

For more than five years, the Loro Parque Fundación has led a project to save the species. This has had a focus on raising awareness of the parrot with local communities in the region, to in turn support the sustainable use of Licuri Palms through the production of handicrafts and consequent improvement of the people's socio-economic status.

Licuri Palm nuts are the main food of Lear's Macaw, and sustainable use of the palms does not threaten the species. Recently there has been an increase in the Lear's Macaw population, enough to reduce fears of its extinction and lower its IUCN threat category to 'Endangered '.

The project's director, Simone Tenorio, has reported that severe drought experienced in recent years has profoundly affected the region, reducing crop yields significantly. Despite this, an annual census of the population is held to help confirm the status of the species, and this year the census was conducted between 8-10 November, with an expedition to the region of Raso da Catarina. This was performed by contributors to the national action plan for Lear's Macaw, technicians of the country's Biodiversitas Foundation and 30 volunteers, mostly students in the volunteer program sponsored jointly by CEMAVE/ICMBio and the Raso da Catarina Ecological Station.

The census results this year showed a slight increase in numbers, with an average of 1,283 birds recorded (in 2012, the average was 1,263). Analysts say that the severe drought may have interfered with successful reproduction, preventing faster population growth.
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