WASHINGTON (CN) – Twenty-two years after Endangered Species Act protection was first requested, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Bolivia’s blue-throated macaw as endangered throughout its range.
Since proposing the change in January, the agency has gathered new information indicating that the population in the wild is “likely between 350 and 400 individuals,” up from the 150 cited in the listing proposal, but still far below healthy population levels.
Macaws are members of the parrot family, and average about 33 inches in length. They are monogamous and tend to mate for life, with the young remaining dependant on the adults for a full year.
In addition to collection and the illegal pet trade, the birds are threatened by the lack of suitable palm nesting trees, failure of nestlings to survive due to parasitical botflies, severe weather events such as flooding, and nest predation by toucans, crane hawks, great horned owls and other birds of prey.
It also was recently discovered that the nestlings are prone to a pox virus due to close contact with domestic poultry. “In one location within the limited range of the species, blue-throated macaws share water sources with chickens, ducks, and other birds. Blue-throated macaws in this area are being closely monitored to decrease the possibility of transmission of the pox virus; however, it remains a concern,” the action noted.
Although international trade in this bird has largely been curtailed, poaching for local sale still continues. “Because this species has so few individuals remaining, any removal from the wild is extremely detrimental to the survival of the species when considered with all of the other factors acting upon the species,” the agency said.
There are likely up to a thousand birds held in captivity world-wide. Some of these may harbor disease and therefore be unsuitable for release back into the wild. Due to the bird’s new endangered status, it is illegal for any person in the U.S. to harm, possess or sell wild birds.
The USFWS does not regulate captive breeding of listed species, but it does prohibit interstate and foreign sales and certain other foreign commercial activities unless a permit has been obtained from the agency. Permits can be issued for scientific purposes, to enhance the propagation or survival of the species, or for incidental take (harm) in connection with otherwise lawful activities, according to the action.
“We have determined that captive-held specimens cannot be given separate consideration under the ESA based on their captive state, but captive-held specimens can, in some cases, create, contribute to, reduce, or remove threats to the species,” the agency said.
The ESA does not restrict ownership of pet macaws as long as they are “legally obtained,” the agency said.
The listing is effective Nov. 4.