Where is Blu? Where are the Blue Macaws going?

Less than 150 individuals left in human captivity.

David Tan

Less than 150 individuals left in human captivity.

Isaac Sharp, Staff Writer

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          On September 5th Bird Life International reported in an article that the Blue (Spix’s) Macaw, along with eight other bird species, are likely to be extinct or gone from the wild in South America by the end of the decade.  In the film Rio there were two Spix Macaws, thought to be the last of their kind; they are flown to each other and fall in love. These literal love birds then have babies and live happily ever after, but in the real world that may not be the case.

          Their extinction may be related to the fact that bird trafficking hasn’t been stopped and by massive habitat loss. On the black market bird trafficking is the fourth-largest illicit trade.  In South America deforestation or clear-cutting is common and is used for creating farm and pastureland. Another source of habitat loss is pollution.

          Bird trafficking is affecting the Spix’s Macaw greatly. According to the latest Audubon on the black market, bird trafficking is valued at more than $19 billion, making it the fourth largest global illicit trade, after narcotics, human trafficking, and counterfeit products. Smugglers used containers to bring certain birds into the US, pictured below.

Smuggling these into the US with birds.

         If you don’t know what deforestation is, it is what poor farmers do to clear land and to prepare the dirt for farming. The soil can only withstand this for as little as three years, then the farmers are forced to move to new land, when the land they had cleared becomes useless and unable to yield crops. Then the land is left to re grow, but the soil is left so depleted that the forest will take as long as 50 years to grow back.

Birds eye view of a forest totally destroyed.

          After the Blue Macaw who else may be next? There are seven other species known to be affected by deforestation in South America: the Amazonian manatee, Galapagos giant tortoise, golden lion tamarin, Waved albatross, Orinoco crocodile, Panamanian golden frog, and the Lemur leaf frog. All in steep decline from deforestation and mercury pollution. Now mercury pollution may be a little off topic so if you don’t know what it is, I will explain.

         Mercury pollution has affected many animals and humans. Illegal alluvial gold mining is the main way mercury pollution is spreading. In Peru, 80% of a Nahua community have tested positive for high levels of mercury poisoning, 63% of those affected are children. The poisoning caused anemia and renal/kidney failure, and possibly death.  New statistics in Brazil show increasing rates of mercury poisoning amongst the Yanomami and Yekuana. Gold miners operate on Yanomami land, polluting the rivers and forest with mercury.

A miner pollutes the water with mercury as he uses his sluice box.

           The point of this is that anything affecting the Blue Macaw is in a way affecting everything else in South America, be it health related or species wide. The Blue Macaw may be going extinct but we can try to stop that from happening to any other species. There are many organizations working to stop this from happening like this one.

 

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Where is Blu? Where are the Blue Macaws going?