Endangered Species
When Will it Stop!

by David T. Longo

Longo�s Aviaries Inc.
Meaford, Ontario, Canada

I have been breeding and studying hookbills and their characteristics for almost 40 years now. A couple of my grandchildren have shown a great interest in wildlife expeditions lately. I mention time and time again about one of my favorite macaws and they love the macaws more than all the other hookbills. One day they decide to go on an expedition with some friends to see the intriguing Spix's Macaw and I let them know that I would give them all the details and itinerary information to go to Europe�. All of them looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about, they thought I've finally gone senile. I elaborated as to why they were going to Europe, basically because they were all in private collections and yes, the trip would have been to South America but they are now extinct�.

What have we done?????

Unless we work at controlling wild caught birds that are smuggled or just imported from their native countries, we will not see much more in aviculture. This is an excellent goal to shoot for; the species will greatly benefit more than us as humans. If this was approachable and guidelines were followed flawlessly, at least we know we did all we could to help the remaining populations. Many of us aviculturists like to obtain more of the rarer species and it hurts to say this but some do not care where the specimens come from as long as they can obtain them. The first step is the demand for wild caught smuggled birds or other genera of the animal kingdom has to stop. Whether or not the bird is threatened with extinction, we shouldn't allow them to leave their native country or the ones which are not as rare may soon be. The second step is the promotion of parent raised stock mainly for the purpose of captive breeding programs. The final step is the most important one if the first step works. The idea is to show trappers and smugglers there is not enough demand for the wildlife intended to be exported to make a living and revert to other resources for income. Disadvantages of obtaining wild caught birds can be enormous. Here are some primary guidelines as to why we shouldn't obtain them. First and foremost, age is always in question. Why buy breeding stock (or pets) not knowing its background and even risking it dying in a few months or even years down the road from old age or illnesses. Unless there are juvenile characteristics present in the species, there is no way of identifying age. There are still certain parasites, diseases and viruses that still have not been discovered or have found cures for. The most important is depletion of population. Advantages to obtaining wild caught ones are important but not a priority to us. When they are imported, their instincts are in tact, they know their fears, their skills and behaviours are as important to train their offspring the same. Minimal exposure to humans reduces chances of bonding to us and strengthens their instincts. Introduction of new bloodlines is important to avoid genetic flaws and other types of genetic mutations from arising. The numbers may be the same but the consequences far outweigh the advantages.

Captive breeding programs are of utmost importance for the survival of each individual species. I usually ponder if we could plan more successful release programs. If only more aviculturists would be willing to donate certain percentages of their rarer species for this sole purpose. We should reach a set margin of establishing more Appendix 1 species in captivity. For instance, both Goffin's and Moluccan Cockatoos are Appendix 1 Psittacines. These 2 species are very abundant; I see them in almost every cockatoo collection and either one or the other is breeding successfully. Perhaps an interesting idea would be to ask breeders to donate or return 1 baby a year or 5 years or when and if the release programs were planned and projected? As long as we all put out efforts together to help, I believe we can make a difference in helping the survival of the species as a whole. Trading young offspring with other aviculturists to increase gene pools is beyond a doubt the most significant. Another topic of interest is to setup studbooks for certain species that are crucially unavailable and needed for captive propagation. If there are people who hold studbooks, let avicultural societies and other bird owners and breeders know about them and how they work so we can work together to better the survival of the species.

Release programs can be very costly, large amount of time and field research is required. Aviaries of enormous sizes, usually being about 30-50 ft. high and 50 ft. long are used. Foods they would normally eat in their native habitat are used and specifically arranged for enhancing their ability to forage for foods as they would in the wild. Trained predatory birds are used to fly over the training cages to teach the birds to evade predators and avoid their fears by flying away. Field researchers will also use wild caught specimens of the same birds which are being released to teach the captive bred ones in the same cage who their rivals are and also learn all of the food foraging skills and behaviours from the wild caught ones.

I didn't mention or really acknowledge the major primary issue of the logging industry which is 93-98% more to blame than the wildlife smuggling trade but do believe we could do better in controlling the aforementioned issues. We all have blue boxes now and one thing is quite certain, mine is full every week, every scrap counts. What is rewarding to me is seeing the birds in their natural environment, flying with other members of their group. No problem to worry about, no troubles finding places to raise families, any fears of predators, primarily us. I think all of us could admit we enjoy the rewarding profits we receive from them but does not give the same returns as the amounts of joy of having their company and keeping them or them keeping us.

"The beauty and the genius of a work of art may be reconceived though its first material expression may be destroyed. A vanishing harmony may yet again inspire its composer, but when the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again" William Beebe .......... Naturalist

Dave T. Longo
Longo's Aviaries Inc.
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