Print and Features Editor Kitty Grant explores the threats faced by macaws, from habitat loss to the illegal pet trade
Native to Latin America, macaws are a group of at least 17 species of large parrot known for their bright appearance and ability to mimic human speech. These amazing features of macaws have long made them popular pets, but dangerous and illegal trading practices have left many species of macaw on the endangered list.
Their bright colours allow macaws to blend in with the equally colourful rainforest, but also makes them highly desirable pets vulnerable to poaching. Macaws are trapped in the wild and shipped across the world in terrible conditions, resulting in more than 75% of macaws dying before being sold. Macaw numbers are also dropping due to habitat loss as farming and development reduces the rainforest in which many species thrive.
Many macaw species have already gone extinct in the wild, including the Spix’s Macaw, which was the inspiration behind the 2011 film Rio, but all hope is not lost. Conservationists have been working to protect the habitat of the macaw, as well as creating programmes to employ former poachers in alternative jobs that protect the birds instead of hurting them. Attempts to reintroduce captive Spix’s macaws to the wild have so far been unsuccessful, but perhaps one day could succeed.
It is no wonder macaws are such popular pets, but responsible pet ownership starts with responsible sourcing. Only buy macaws if you are sure they were ethically bred in captivity rather than taken from the wild, and if you cannot be sure then find another seller or perhaps consider other pet options.
While many species of macaw are on the endangered list, and some have already faced extinction either in the wild or totally, with the work of conservationists and responsible pet ownership there is some hope for the colourful birds that still make the rainforest a slightly more beautiful place.
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