The critically endangered Lear's Macaw (Anodorhynchus leari) is restricted to north-eastern Brazil, where it nests on spectacular sandstone cliffs. Its numbers had dropped down to 70 individuals in 1987. Strict protection of the breeding grounds increased the population to around 1000 individuals — a great success, but not yet enough to secure its survival.
Poaching and the illegal pet trade pose major threats to these blue-coloured birds. Their specialised feeding behaviour creates another risk. The Lear's Macaw feeds primarily on the nuts of the Licuri palm. Where goats and cattle graze and destroy the seedlings, the palm nuts are no longer available in sufficient numbers and the birds have to switch to corn. The nutrients of corn, however, are less appropriate for the parrots.
The region "Serra Branca" plays an important role in the protection of the Lear's Macaw, because this breeding area is still largely intact. The conservation measures currently concentrate on this site.
Until Licuri palm recovery will be sufficient, corn fields, especially grown for the birds, will be temporarily offered as an alternative food resource. As soon as the macaw population has recovered and the parrots start searching for new nesting sites, the reserve might be expanded in cooperation with the farmers.
The following conservation measures are implemented:
- broadening of the range of food in the parrots' habitat;
- planting Licuri palm trees and care of the current palm stock;
- protecting the area by improving monitoring, fencing and setting up access controls;
- environmental education of the local population.
The project monitoring is carried out by Dr. Heinz Tischer, member of the Advisory Board of Stiftung Artenschutz.
Stiftung Artenschutz would like to thank Ingeborg von Schlenk-Barnsdorf Stiftung for the financial support of the project.