The Legacy of the Blue Macaw

I don’t have many connections to Sao Paolo. Passing through it’s bustling and somewhat cold airport a few months ago, I couldn’t have felt further from Brazil’s rich rainforests, immense diversity and un-contacted tribes. Yet this place was thrown in front of me a couple of days ago, when news of extinct blue parrots started filtering through my news feeds and on the television.

Yes, it seems this is no case of fake news. The Spix’s Macaw, or Blue Macaw, has been officially declared extinct in the wild. While there may be around 60 – 80 birds in small captive breeding programs around the world, it seems extremely unlikely and extraordinarily difficult, to bring the species back. It’s a similar story to the Kakapo – New Zealand’s charming, comical and endearing green parrot that had to be moved from the mainland and intensively managed in order to stop it from disappearing. And it very nearly did. While slow and steady progress is being made, I doubt how possible it will be to re-introduce them back home. By the time they do, too much will have changed.

Sadly, for this unique blue parrot, the story will probably be the same. It’s sadly another species I painted, a couple of years ago, only to later discover the terrible news: another animal extinct in my lifetime. Another one, now only immortalized in paint, pictures, and a handful of rehabilitated individuals.

A more startling trend emerged from the Spix’s Macaw’s story, as this was not an isolated island species sharing a tiny speck of territory. this was a mainland animal. It appears now, that mainland extinctions are overtaking island ones, which is a very worrying trend. If larger, more genetically diverse populations are at risk, what chance to Christmas Island crabs, or the Kakapo have?

When are we finally going to act?

1425624_578858682181064_1928250248_nWatercolour painting of the Spix’s Macaw, 2013. Available for sale.

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