Canadian Parrot Symposium

Canadian Parrot Symposium



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All material Copyright 19912002 by the Canadian Parrot Symposium unless otherwise noted. For permission and information about reprinting articles, please e-mail your request.

Conservation for the Future Preservation of Aviculture

Mark Koenig

The definition of conservation is the planned management of natural resources. Preservation means to keep safe, to guard, and to protect from harm. 1

From these definitions we can manipulate and determine the correct understanding of a situation to make it fit our needs..

For the bird breeder there is no greater sense of achievement than to breed a species of bird for the first time in a captive situation. This is no easy feat when you think of all the problems facing bird breeders of the nineties.

As problems are encountered in Aviculture there can be many ways to determine a practical solution. The decision-making process must be made with all of the information that is available at the time, which requires working together as a team to reach a common goal.

In Aviculture, you as a bird owner and a bird breeder are a steward of some very rare and endangered birds from all over the world. The skills that you require to care and nurture birds into breeding season are vast. You need to be a master of physiology, veterinary medicine, carpentry, and a business person. As any breeder knows, this is quite a lot to handle for one person just to breed parrots in captivity. This is why we need to work together towards a common goal, so that our children will have the rich diversity of birds in captivity that we all enjoy.

As a breeding community we need to exchange information with our fellow bird breeders. This can be done by talking about experiences, or better yet, writing down your experiences for your local bird clubs to publish. To withhold information that may help to increase a rare bird population in captivity is unproductive and will do nothing to increase the number of birds in captivity.

Bird clubs are a great way to exchange ideas and promote breeding of parrots, but they can only be as effective as the amount of interest and work each member puts into the club. This is the grass roots of bird breeding where new and old bird breeders can come together and exchange ideas and share problems, and hopefully come out with a solution. Potential new breeders usually come to meetings to obtain direction. This is a very important step. As established breeders we must help and encourage new comers to become the breeders of tomorrow .

Another useful source of information is the work being done in the wild by field observations, nest inspection, and talking with people who reside in areas where the birds can be found. This is being done by the WORLD PARROT TRUST, the WORLD WILDLIFE FUND, and now by the governments of the countries in which where these rare birds are endemic.

The World Parrot Trust is the only international conservation organization devoted to the survival of parrot species in the wild, and the welfare of each parrot. The Trust sees parrots as ecological pathfinders, leading the way to a wider understanding of conservation issues. 2

Aviculture has a vital role to play in preserving the parrot species. Future success depends on avicultural and conservation groups working together to ensure that future generations of parrots can fly free in their native land. We must remember, we only get one chance at this.

One of the greatest threats to parrot species is the poaching of birds from the wild for sale to the pet trade. The World Parrot Trust advocates effective controls on the international trade in wild caught parrots and encourages consumers to purchase only captive-bred birds.

The following are projects that have been undertaken by the World Parrot Trust:

Goffin's Cockatoo -- Indonesia

In 1992 several hundred Goffin's Cockatoos were being held by traders on Tanimbar, Indonesia. The species had just been added to CITES Appendix l, so the Trust tried to have the birds released into the wild. It took several months, and in the meantime the Trust paid for the care and feeding of over 500 birds. Eventually, with government approval, 319 birds were released. Today, around 400,000 goffins still exist on this island alone. 3

Hyacinth Macaw -- Brazil

In 1991 and 1992 the World Parrot Trust partly funded work by Charles Munn and Carlos Yamashita which involved biological studies of the Hyacinth in the Pantanal. They also provided additional nest boxes for the birds. The Trust would like to extend this program. 4

Scarlet Macaw -- Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Central America

The World Parrot Trust has made a donation to the ARCAS project which involves breeding and releasing captive bred Scarlet Macaws in Guatemala. 5

Buffon's Macaw -- Central America, Columbia, Ecuador

The Trust received a proposal from RARE Center to contribute towards research into the Buffons Macaw in Costa Rica. It involves a one year pilot scheme, followed by a two year full study. David Waugh has visited the area and has produced an excellent study entitled " Priorities for the Conservation of Buffon's Macaw Ara ambigua " 6

None of these groups can run without your donations of money or time. Both will be greatly appreciated. Governments are learning that wildlife has more value alive. Site-seeing tours are planned and help generate income to some of the poorer nations where some of the birds are found. They in turn spend this money on parks to promote tourism and generate jobs and income for the area.

Another way of raising the captive populations of endangered species is to pick one or two types of birds and keep a minimum of three pairs or more. This ensures genetic diversity within a breeding program. When dealing with endangered species it is best to specialize, so that all your attention is focused on those that need the special care. Specialization also allows for a greater accumulation of knowledge in a particular type of birds being kept.

Breeding consortiums are now needed more than ever. They are a way of uniting birds to create pairs, and obtain new blood lines. As a group we should seek out as many birds in the nucleus as possible to get the greatest local diversity within the working group. Record keeping, a universal way to register your birds, and a DNA probe can determine the available bloodlines there are to work with. It must be stressed that all birds in the group must be bred to aquire a working nucleus. If one bloodline has many members, they will all be utilized at some time in the breeding cycles. The birds should be permanently identified with either a tattoo, or a microchip in order to make future identification possible along with close banding. Working together as a group has its advantages. With a number of people involved, a large area can be covered when looking for birds.

For the breeder, it also reduces the threat of theft, fire, and disease that exists if all of the birds are kept in one place. If working groups are spread out then the breeder could start over if all is lost and Canadian aviculture will not lose out. Acts of Mother Nature can happen to any breeder, but if not all the birds are in one area then some will survive and will become part of the breeding nucleus. Remember that we as a group are working for a common goal and sometimes will need to make sacrifices. We must not let personal conflicts stand in the way of avicultural progress. By talking to other people interested in the same group of birds you will have a considerable pool of information and talent to work with

PAC, which stands for Parrot Association of Canada, was started last year at the Parrot Sysposium with the intention of setting standards in aviculture. They have achieved this goal and have set a new set of standards called MAP. MAP or Model Avicultural Program was modeled off the American version but was upgraded to suit Canada's colder climate with some changes made. With the Map program in place this will show the government and animal rights groups that aviculturists are serious, organized and are in the business to preserve wildlife.

Townships are passing more by-laws that will govern the types of birds along with the numbers of birds that a person can keep. Governments are looking at changing the laws for importing birds because of pressure by animal rights groups and from the international community. All of these pressures need to be addressed by a dedicated group of people that will be able to communicate your best interests to governments and other groups.

Another force that has been gaining attention is the true conservative who believes that no birds should be in captivity. The animal rights activists do not understand the function of the established breeding community. In truth, the breeders have the same goal as the activists, but just a different approach. Is it man's responsibility to save the birds, or is it just a natural succession or evolution?

As Canadians, we should be proud of the nucleus of dedicated breeders and the knowledge we share. If we all work together we will preserve aviculture and conserve the population of endangered parrots in the wild.


1 The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Pocket Books, New York . 1974

2 The Canadian World Parrot Trust, 1995

3 The Canadian World Parrot Trust, 1995

4 The Canadian World Parrot Trust, 1995

5 The Canadian World Parrot Trust, 1995

6 The Canadian World Parrot Trust, 1995

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