Ever seen the animated film Rio, where pet macaws seek the refuge of the Brazilian rainforest? The dream of the movie may soon become a reality, as a Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), the film’s star, has been spotted in the wild for the first time in 15 years.

The beautiful blue bird was seen flying over the small town of Curaçá in Bahia, Brazil by a Nauto Sergio de Oliveria, a local farmer, a week ago. At dawn the next day, Nauto’s daughter Damily managed to film evidence of the bird in flight.

Damily’s mother contacted the Conservation of Birds in Brazil, who confirmed the species to be a Spix’s macaw after evaluating the video evidence and the vocal calls heard within.

For Damily, the return of the macaw to the wild has a special place in her heart. Pinpin Oliveira, her grandfather, dreamed of one day seeing the return of this native bird in the wild, but sadly he passed away a year ago at the great age of 94. The return of the species holds great value to the local community, who wish to see it return to the Caatinga dry forest in Northeastern Brazil.

“The local people were euphoric,” said SAVE Brasil’s director, Pedro Develey. “They set up groups to locate the bird and control any potential dealers from entering.”

The Spix’s macaw has been identified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN and believed likely to be extinct in the wild. Their decline has been due to their popularity in the illegal pet trade and their reliance on the Caraiba vegetation. This vegetation is dominant in Caatinga, but due to 45% of the Caatinga being cleared for agriculture and plantations, it too is struggling.

This week, the Projecto Ararinha na Natureza (Spix’s Macaw in the Wild Project) is going to lead an expedition into the forest to locate the bird, working with local people and the federal government’s environmental agency.

“After two years of us with them they are really proud and hopeful for a reintroduction to save the species” said Develey on the local communities.

Incorporating the field and reintroduction efforts will be essential for the return of this species to their native habitat.

Reintroduction programs have been running since 1990, when the captive population only amounted to 15 individuals. The Brazilian government is determined to return this species to the wild, by collaborating with breeders in Qatar, Germany and Brazil, they have increased the captive population to 130, with introductions planned in a few years time.

Ugo Vercillo, the Director of Biodiversity of the Ministry of the Environment, agrees that the appearance of the Spix’s macaw in the Curaca region highlights the need to protect the area. He has been working with the Projecto Ararinha na Natureza since 2014, aiming to create a 44,000 hectare protected area which incorporates the Caatinga and riparian forests.

The origin of the sighted individual is unknown, but it has possibly escaped from captivity, raising other questions: how long has this individual been in the wild, and how is it adapting to the life in the wild after likely being in captivity?

Develey hopes the expedition will find these answers, but for now he is happy in the fact that “There’s hope again” for the return of the Spix’s macaw.

For more information visit SAVE Brasil:

Ararinha-azul reaparece na natureza


Discover the story behind the research through the scientist’s eyes, subscribe to Biosphere digital magazine for access to in-depth articles that bring the natural world to life.