If you loved the animated film Rio, then this bit of news may sadden you. The Spix’s macaw, the bright blue Brazilian parrot species named Blu in the animated film, has been declared extinct in the wild.
The bird is one of seven other bird species that new analysis of endangered animals has found to be extinct. Among them are the poo-uli, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl, and the cryptic treehunter. These eight bird species are the first avian species to have died out in this decade.
According to BirdLife International, a conglomeration of conservation NGOs that are based in Cambridge, UK, deforestation is largely to blame. This is the conclusion that the group’s researchers came to after conducting a statistical analysis of endangered species.
BirdLife International’s chief scientist Stuart Butchart said: “People think of extinctions and think of the dodo but our analysis shows that extinctions are continuing and accelerating today.
“Historically 90 percent of bird extinctions have been small populations on remote islands.
“Our evidence shows there is a growing wave of extinctions washing over the continent driven by habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, drainage, and logging.”
But this time, five out of the eight extinct species were from South America.
The group focused on 51 species that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s red list has classified as “critically endangered.”
However, that is only a tiny portion of the 26,000 of the world’s species that are threatened. The situation has led some scientists to suggest that human activity may be leading the planet to its sixth big extinction event.
Four of the extinct species come from Brazil. The Spix’s macaw had been traded in cages for 150 years but a trio of the birds was found in the wild in 1985.
Two of them were illegally captured and breeding attempts on the third failed. The last time one was seen in the wild was in 2000 although the birds in captivity are being bred for a restoration program.
The same cannot be said for the poo-uli, the cryptic treehunter, and the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner that have no specimens in captivity. Analysts say they may have disappeared forever.
Heavy deforestation did the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner in back in 2011 while the cryptic treehunter hasn’t been seen in the wild since 2007 (the small forests where it was found had been cut down to make way for sugar cane plantations).
The poo-uli, only found in Maui, Hawaii, hasn’t been seen since 2004 and breeding attempts for those in captivity have failed.
The glaucous macaw and Pernambuco pygmy-owl have also been classified as “critically endangered (possibly extinct).” Logging has been a major culprit in their disappearances.
The glaucous macaw was once found in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil but the palm groves that were their habitats were destroyed for farming. The Pernambuco pygmy-owl, which eats small insects, hasn’t been seen in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco since 2002.
Dr. Butchart hopes that the shocking news would help lead to better conservation efforts in the future.
“Because we know birds better than any other taxonomic class we know which other species are most at risk,” Butchart said.
“We hope this study will inspire a redoubling of efforts to prevent other extinctions.”
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