The Blue and the Gold: Protect the Caribbean’s Only Remaining Native Macaw


TODAY, a group of young Trinidadian conservationists and experts from the Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean  (CLiC) Fellowship Program has launched a crowdfunding campaign to protect these magnificent birds, whose numbers have begun to increase. Please see the details here, and if you can – PLEASE support their efforts. It is so important to encourage the work of young scientists in the region, who are working for (as Dr. Douglas puts it) “What is OURS.”

You know those heavy, brilliantly coloured parrots that fly through the tropical forest, ponderously beautiful? They are almost iconic. This is the image conjured up in our minds when we hear the word “parrot.” Unfortunately, we would most likely meet one in a cage, at a resort perhaps – probably alone, with guests trying to start up a conversation with it. Or in a zoo.

But…did you know that the Caribbean once had several endemic species of macaw of its own – on the islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Trinidad, for example? The Cuban Macaw went extinct (extirpated is the scientific word) in the late 19th century. The Jamaican Macaw (yes, there was one!) had become extinct about a century earlier. And Trinidad had its own endemic species, up until the 1960s. Widespread habitat loss, hunting and demand for the birds in the pet trade (28 per cent of the parrot family of  Psittacidae are considered threatened globally) were the primary causes of these extinctions. Hunting of wild birds in general – including the gorgeous National Bird, the Scarlet Ibis – remains a serious conservation issue in Trinidad to this day.

The Blue and Gold Macaw has been reintroduced to Trinidad’s Nariva Swamp. (Photo: unctt.org)

But still, now Trinidad is the only Caribbean island with a native Macaw.

Now…Dr. Leo Douglas, Immediate Past President of BirdsCaribbean, told me he was “in awe” when he first saw a pair of Blue and Gold Macaws flying towards him, in Trinidad. Douglas says: “I have never seen anything like it…It was exactly like the dragons or dinosaurs from Game of Thrones…Huge, and undulating in flightWhen the light of the setting sun caught the feathers!”

Yes, wild-caught macaws were actually reintroduced to the island from Guyana between 1999 and 2004, through a collaboration among Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (with the inspiration of its Trinidad-born scientist Bernadette Contain Plair), Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Environment and the Centre for the Rescue of Endangered Species of Trinidad and Tobago (CRESTT).

So Dr. Douglas wasn’t dreaming when he saw these splendid birds in the wild.Take a look at these two videos (sponsored by JetBlue and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and you will see what I mean

CLiC’s Aliya Hosein is a Caribbean conservationist, who researches parrots and macaws, as well as humans’ relationship with the environment. (Photo: CLiC)

Here is CLiC’s press release regarding today’s crowdfunding launch:

Protect the Caribbean’s Only Remaining Native Macaw

On Sunday, October 8th, a group of young scientists and expert advisors from Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean (CLiC) Fellowship Program will launch the first-ever public crowdfunding campaign to conserve Trinidad’s reintroduced population of Blue and Gold Macaws.

Donation on Generosity: https://igg.me/at/aUsuyG7lV4U

After Blue and Gold Macaws, the only remaining native Macaw in the Caribbean, were extirpated on Trinidad by the 1960’s, due to rampant hunting and trade, a small population was restored to the island beginning in 1999. Sadly, this population of Blue and Gold Macaws—also known as Blue and Yellow Macaws—continue to be threatened by an illegal pet trade, a thriving interest in captive macaws locally, and by habitat destruction. We believe that culturally-relevant wildlife conservation grounded in sound science, socially-conscious policies, and local community engagement is the most effective strategy to save the Blue and Gold Macaws.

Our goal is to raise $20,000. Your support will make it possible to:

  1. Implement a sustainable comprehensive Macaw conservation plan for the island.
  2. ​Address illegal Macaw trade.
  3. ​Conduct field-based ​Macaw conservation research.
  4. ​Design a​ Pro-Macaw public campaign that rebuilds national pride in the species.

You can help to secure this Caribbean icon, and sole surviving native of the Caribbean’s once diverse macaw assembly. Donate via our Generosity fundraiser: https://igg.me/at/aUsuyG7lV4U

For more information, contact Ms. Aliya Hosein. Email: aliyahosein@gmail.com.  Tel: 1 868-713-3277. Follow the campaign on social media at #BlueAndGoldProject @CLiCFellows

About the Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean (CLiC) Youth Fellowship Program:

The CLiC Fellowship is a new training initiative geared towards emerging Caribbean environmental professionals. CLiC’s goal is to prepare a regional network of outstanding conservation leaders equipped with the knowledge and cutting-edge skills to face the pressing real-world conservation planning and management challenges of Caribbean biodiversity conservation. We see these youth as future leaders, committed to healthy functional marine and terrestrial Caribbean ecosystems in which there is ecologically and economically sustainable development that addresses both human and wildlife needs.

For more information, visit http://conservationcaribbean.weebly.com/ Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @CLiCFellows

Dr. Leo Douglas (front, left) with a group of CLiC Fellows. (Photo: CLiC)

 

Now we are in the 21st century and many of our living creatures, large and small, live daily with the cloud of extinction hovering on the horizon. For many, that cloud is drawing ever nearer. We must do the best we can to banish some of those clouds. The macaws largely went extinct because of poaching for the pet trade, as well as the destruction of their habitat. https://igg.me/at/aUsuyG7lV4U

 


6 thoughts on “The Blue and the Gold: Protect the Caribbean’s Only Remaining Native Macaw

  1. Thank you for raising such awareness of our campaign and the existing threats facing the reintroduced population of Blue and Macaws, the “golden birds” which mesmerized me at age 5 and which are still my passion to protect in my native Trinidad. I am humbled to have the opportunity to work with CLiC and a new generation of scientists and conservationists in this important effort. Your article is captivating, inspiring and informative. Thank you and all others for your support.

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    1. Dear Ms. Coutain Plair: I am absolutely fascinated by these birds now – as I know you already have been your whole life! I am sure all the young and enthusiastic conservationists feel equally humbled to have you as their inspiration. I wish you every success in your work, and I look forward to hearing more about the Macaws (in growing numbers) in the future!

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  2. Thank you for the wonderfully written blog on a very serious campaign. It truly is mesmerizing to see the Blue and Gold Macaws in flight. They don’t belong in cages!

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    1. You are welcome, Aliya! I would absolutely love to see one flying through the forest! To my mind, no wild creature belongs in a cage! Congratulations on your campaign, and I hope you raise some money.

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  3. The illegal trade in Blue and Gold Macaws on Trinidad has also involved members of the national security force who have been caught smuggling. The birds are highly prized for the pet trade – so any conservation work need depth and support at multiple levels of the society!

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    1. Good Lord, Leo! This is terrible. The pet trade is really impacting our biodiversity in the Caribbean, which is already so much under threat from other factors, including climate change. So very sad! Don’t buy a bird in a cage…Wherever you are.

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