Sangeetha Pulapaka
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With likely less than 300 birds scattered across a vast and inhospitable terrain, waiting for nature to take its course might allow the species to slip into extinction.

After relentless trapping for the pet trade reduced wild Blue-throated macaw populations to mere rumors, the bird was rediscovered in 1992 in a remote area of Bolivia. Bolivia is home to 12 species of macaws, and most are thriving. Not among these healthy parrot populations, however, is the Critically Endangered Blue-throated macaw (Ara glaucogularis), with less than 15 breeding pairs known to be nesting in a remote, widely dispersed range in the north of the country.

                                                  

Years of intensive effort using traditional conservation methods to protect wild Blue-throated macaw from predators, raise chick survival rates, and engage local human communities have not significantly boosted the wild population nor have new breeding pairs been discovered. Rethinking a long-held view that captive-bred parrots released to the wild have little hope of surviving there, James Gilardi is working with local and international partners to select and prepare captive, pet trade and confiscated macaws to join their wild counterparts.


Although there haven’t been any releases of captive Blue-throated macaw as yet, Gilardi is confident that wild populations of the species can recover if the captive birds are carefully chosen, health screened, and fully prepared for the wild.


An intensive regimen to protect the remaining birds was put into action by local NGOs —including the Conservación de Loros de Bolivia, and the Research Center for Biodiversity and the Environment — along with academic collaborators and the World Parrot Trust.

However, more than a decade of hands-on conservation yielded frustrating results, with no significant population increase or recruitment of new breeding pairs.