Fish and Wildlife Pushed to Protect Scarlet Macaw

WASHINGTON (CN) – Highlighting threats that the brilliantly colored parrot faces from the pet trade and deforestation, wildlife advocates brought a lawsuit to ensure federal protection of the scarlet macaw.

Friends of Animals included these photos of the scarlet macaw subspecies Ara macao cyanoptera (left) and Ara macao macao (right) in a complaint filed on July 27, 2018, in Washington, D.C. The left photo is credited to Tony Silva, and the right photo to @Doug88888.

Represented by Jeremy McKay, an attorney with the Denver legal outfit Environmental and Animal Defense, the nonprofit Friends of Animals brought its federal complaint on July 27 in Washington.

The group says it is still waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act on a petition it filed in January 2008 to have the scarlet macaw protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“At latest, defendants were required to complete this listing by January 2014,” the complaint states, referring to the agency and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Defendants have been in violation of this express statutory command for years.”

Friends of Animals notes that the government included the scarlet macaw in a listing rule proposed on July 6, 2012, only to leave the iconic bird off its September 2016 “listing workplan.”

“Defendants have omitted the scarlet macaw from any document that demonstrates FWS plans to act upon its congressionally mandatory duties concerning the macaw,” the complaint says.

When Friends of Animals brought its notice of intent to sue last month, the agency allegedly indicated that it would not finalize its listing decision on the jungle parrot until 2019.

“The ongoing nature of the threats caused by deforestation and poaching, which pose immediate threats to the scarlet macaw, demonstrates that it is reasonable to conclude the regulatory mechanisms addressing these threats are inadequate,” the complaint says.

Attorney McKay has not responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment.

Friday’s lawsuit seeks protection for two populations of the scarlet macaw, which live in tropical humid forests in Central and South America. A southern subspecies called Ara macao macao has a green band separating the yellow and blue feathers on its wing coverts. The northern subspecies Ara macao cyanoptera is larger, has longer wing lengths and lacks the green band.

In addition to poachers, the predominantly red birds face habitat loss exacerbated by climate change, logging, and various industrial or agricultural factors.

A 2010 lawsuit that Friends of Animals brought against Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to submit a 12-month finding on the scarlet macaw, along with 11 other bird species, resulted in a settlement and a proposed rule on the species in 2012.

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